While their initial offering wasn’t quite what some had hoped, Onlive’s Desktop Plus seems to genuinely deliver the goods. The streaming desktop environment now allows you to run a full Windows 7 desktop on your ipad, giving you access to things like Internet Explorer 9, full Microsoft Office suite and even flash on the ipad!
Amazingly, the performance really is brilliant. Instead of streaming everything to your device, Onlive is sending only video frames of what you actually need to see – the heavy lifting is done on the cloud servers, and the result sent directly to you. This technique allows for far less data transmission than you might expect for a service of this kind, and speeds up some things tremendously.
For example, online mag Gizmodo ran download tests of a 35 MB file, which took 24 seconds through DropBox over wifi, but only 12 seconds through Onlive Desktop’s browser. Videos too run instantly, no buffering required as Onlive’s massive pipes bring everything down and start streaming to you immediately. Browsing speed is significantly increased, with pages loading almost instantly at speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second through the Onlive pipes, so even through a home broadband network you will notice pages load visibly faster.
Flash works seamlessly within the streaming browser, enough for you to watch online video at sites like Hulu at very high resolution. Flash heavy sites render almost as quickly as text sites, so finally iPad users can operate the web with everything, and often for far less bandwidth than if you browsed directly from a home computer.
Future releases should see the availability of other browsers such as Google Chrome, and theoretically the service can potentially serve almost any application. Onlive will soon be releasing an enterprise version, which will allow limited software installation and full use of powerful applications such as AutoDesk’s 3D animation package Maya.
The cost of all this is only $4.99 a month, letting you run windows and windows applications directly on your iPad. Given that MS OFfice apps for example aren’t yet made to support an ipad interface you may find some buttons and controls a little hard to work with on the capacitive touch screen, but you can use a keyboard for input as well.
Being able to edit powerpoint presentations on the fly, modify office documents and work with a full running copy of IE9 gives tablet users an unprecedented level of flexibility, and is one more step toward making mobile, cloud based computing a reality for many people. It’s still not perfect, as CEO Steve Perlman admits, but the Onlive team are working as fast as they can to improve it, and with Desktop Plus they’re off to a flying start.