OnLive Hosted VDI Service Enables Windows 7 Desktop on iPads

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2012-01-11 Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: iPad users will now be able to run a full version of Windows 7 along with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, thanks to OnLive's hosted virtual desktop infrastructure service announced Jan. 10 at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.

Best known for online game delivery, cloud services provider OnLive announced that it is offering a hosted implementation of Windows 7 for the iPad. Designed to run in the cloud as a virtual desktop, the OnLive Desktop uses virtualization technology to create a remotely hosted Windows 7 desktop.

The technology, introduced Jan. 10 at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, differs from other remote control services in the fact that OnLive provides the hosted machine, whereas services such as LogMeIn, GoToPC and others allows iPad users to gain remote control over a PC that they own.

OnLive Desktop is available initially at no charge; however, it is limited to running just a few Windows applications on the hosted desktop. The free version, which can be downloaded from the iTunes app store, requires basic registration on OnLive's Website.

The free version will include 2GB of online storage and access to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The 2G of free online storage will be represented as a folder on the desktop and will not be used for the OS or applications, proving to be a generous amount of storage for documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

OnLive is also planning to launch a "Pro" version of the OnLive Desktop, which will cost $9.99 per month and offer 50GB of storage and a full Windows 7 desktop implementation, allowing the installation of applications and additional customization. The Pro version also offers enhanced performance, thanks to application acceleration technology.

Plans are in the works to offer an enterprise version of the service as well, which will include group management, administrative controls, extensive customization capabilities and support for platforms other than the iPad. According to OnLive, the enterprise service will run on Android, PC, Mac and monitors/TVs that can run the company's MicroConsole thin client.

The release of OnLive Desktop has some far reaching implications, especially for iPad users who are considering purchasing productivity applications, such as Apple's own Pages application, which retails for $9.99, or other word processing, office suite or productivity applications. It may be pretty hard for those applications to compete against a free offering such as OnLive Desktop. On the other hand, those alternative office suites can run in a disconnected mode, meaning that users can edit documents, spreadsheets or presentations while offline.

The Pro and Enterprise versions of OnLive Desktop have some additional implications for the bring your on device (BYOD) market, where IT managers can now provide employees with an account on OnLive Desktop. This will allows users to bring their own devices into the office or be able to access a corporate desktop from anywhere, without the IT department having to provision and deploy a physical piece of hardware.

I gave the free version of OnLive Desktop a quick try, and I found it to be an adequate alternative to other office-type applications on the iPad. Performance was snappy, and it was quite easy to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations using the included Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications.

Nevertheless, I found the touch-screen and handwriting recognition support less than ideal, especially when it comes to typing with the on-screen keyboard. However, I quickly solved that problem by using a Bluetooth keyboard instead of the on-screen one.

At a price that can't be beat-free-it is definitively worth giving the OnLive Desktop a try to see if it can meet your basic office productivity needs. If it does, the Pro version may be worth the monthly fee for a fully functioning desktop that is available wherever you have an Internet connection. 

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at

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