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Hands-On With OnLive’s Windows 7 iPad App: Nice Tech Demo, Not That Useful Yet

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Earlier this week, we reported that OnLive was about to launch an iPad app that lets you stream a remote, OnLive-hosted Windows 7 desktop to your tablet for free. The free app appeared in the iTunes store earlier tonight and we got a chance to put its through its paces.

Given OnLive's core competency of streaming high-end games across the Internet, it doesn't come as a surprise that streaming a relatively basic Windows 7 desktop doesn't pose much of a problem for the company. Everything runs very smoothly. While there often is some perceptible lag – especially when scrolling through documents or using multi-touch gestures to zoom in and out – it's never so bad as to become a dealbreaker.

OnLive Desktop - Windows 7 on the iPad

Word, Excel and PowerPoint – But No SkyDrive Access and No Browser

So here is what you get with your free account: access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint (the 2010 versions), as well as the ability to sync documents from your desktop. Given that OnLive's business plan depends on selling you additional storage, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise that the productivity apps are pretty locked down. You can't access date your stored in Microsoft's cloud on SkyDrive, for example. Office's "Save & Send" option has been disabled to prevent this.

The free version also doesn't include access to a browser. This will come in the paid versions versions, according to OnLive, but those won't be available for a while.

You do get 2GB of free storage on OnLive's servers, though, as well as Mac and Windows apps to sync folders from your desktop to OnLive.

More Caveats

Here are a few other caveats: the free plan, which is the only one available right now, only provides "as-available" access to your desktop. Access depends on availability, so don't use this as your only option for giving that important presentation. Paid accounts, which will launch later this year, will give you priority access, but apparently won't come with a service guarantee either.

Nice Tech Demo – Not Very Useful (Yet)

For now, then, the OnLive desktop is a nice tech demo. It's clearly the child of a transitional period where we can't do everything we would like to do on our tablets yet. Editing documents isn't one of those things, though, thanks to a growing number of native apps for the iPad and while many will surely install the app just for the sake of it, I venture to guess that the free version won't find too many regular users anytime soon. In the enterprise, there may just be a niche for this, though, but only once administrators can deploy their own apps on these remote desktops.

The OnLive app also clearly shows that Windows 7 wasn't developed with tablets in mind. It works alright, but feels like a chore compared to iOS or Android.

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8:31 pm


OnLive Will Turn GoogleTV into a Gaming Machine

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OnLive, the streaming gaming service, is coming to GoogleTV and could just be the killer app for Google's set-top box. With OnLive, gamers can play current video games that don't actually run on the user's local hardware. Instead, the games run on OnLive's own servers and the graphics are streamed to your computer. OnLive lets you rent games for a few days, or you can buy unlimited access to a game as well.

There is one letdown, though. For the time being, you will only be able to watch games that others are playing on the service. Google and OnLive are working together to bring full OnLive gameplay to GoogleTV, however, and the two companies are showcasing some OnLive-enabled hardware from VIZIO at CES this week. Google also promises that "more Google TV devices are coming, with OnLive built right in."

As OnLive doesn't need any powerful hardware to run on a remote machine, GoogleTV should be easily capable of running the service. Hardcore gamers, of course, won't ditch their Xboxes and PlayStation anytime soon, but for casual gamers, this could be a worthwhile alternative to buying yet another device.

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10:47 am


OnLive Goes Beyond Gaming: Announces Cloud-Based Windows 7 Desktop for the iPad

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Here is some unexpected news from CES: OnLive, the company best known for streaming video games over the Internet, just announced that it will release a new iPad app later this week that will give users access to a virtual Windows 7 desktop with access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel, as well a browser (which we assume will be Internet Explorer). The free app will offer 2GB of storage. OnLive also plans to launch a pro version for $9.99 per month with 50GB of cloud storage. According to PC Magazine, the company also plans to launch an enterprise version in the future that will allow customers to run their own applications.

Given that OnLive generally pushes for more graphically demanding content through its network, running Windows 7 should prove to be rather easy for the company's engineers. The app will officially launch on Thursday, though sign-ups will launch later today.

OnLive already has some experience with the iPad, thanks to its OnLive Viewer app, which allows you to watch games others are playing on the service. OnLive full gaming app, though, is currently only available on Android, but the iPad version should launch soon as well.

How Useful is a Windows 7 Desktop on an iPad?

It'll be interesting to see how much demand there is for a service like this beyond the first surge of people who will inevitably just want to try the app for the sake of it. Given that the latest versions of Microsoft Office allow users to save their content to Microsoft's own LiveDrive service, moving data in and out of the virtual Windows 7 instance should be easy. It's not clear how much else you can do with the app beyond editing office documents, though, and given that you can already edit office documents with the help of iPad apps like CloudOn, it remains to be seen how useful this service will be for mainstream users, especially given that Windows 7 isn't exactly optimized for tablet use.



10:35 am