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OnLive Desktop

At a Glance
Product OnLive Desktop [Website]
Summary Cloud-based Windows desktop with Office 2010 and Flash-enabled browsing for iOS and Android tablets
Pros • Gigabit internet connection from cloud desktop
• Flash-enabled video works flawlessly
• No port forwarding required
Cons • Keyboard is not as ergonomic as the native iPad keyboard
• Text fields do not bring up the keyboard, but they do bring up a shortcut to it
• Can't install apps...yet
• Subscription cannot be purchased within the OnLive Desktop app

Tablets have changed the way people use the internet at home and work, simplifying daily tasks. Along with that simplification however, come minor annoyances and omissions that can leave you scratching your head. The lack of Flash support on the iPad is one well-known omission. But even little things like needing to right-click in a browser to view source or get image paths are problematic at best and often require a piece of javascript saved as a bookmark to make them happen.

Using our iPad is great, but I often find myself thinking: "If I could just get to Windows, I could have this done in 30 seconds". Instead, I spend way too much time searching Apple forums for workarounds for common tasks. Of course, I could put down the iPad, get up from the couch and use my PC. This probably would probably make me healthier, too.

Another option would be purchasing the RDP app for $5.99 in the App Store , which uses Windows' Remote Desktop protocol. This has advantages in that I would be using my own machines, on my own network, with my own printer. For remote access, however, RDP requires opening a router port, exposing part of my network to the internet. A third option is to use OnLive Desktop.

OnLive Desktop is a cloud-based Windows desktop virtual machine Windows desktop complete with Microsoft Office 2010 and 2 GB of cloud storage in the free version. The Plus version adds Gigabit-accelerated full Flash web browsing and Gigabit-speed cloud storage (e.g. DropBox) and Webmail (e.g. Gmail) for $4.99 a month.

OnLive reports a Pro version is coming soon for $9.99 a month, which will add 50 GB of cloud storage and the ability to customize the desktop with additional PC applications judged safe by OnLive. OnLive also has a cloud-based Game service that preceeded Desktop; this review will focus on the desktop portion of the service.

OnLive Desktop current offering feature comparison
Figure 1: OnLive Desktop current offering feature comparison


Installing and accessing OnLive Desktop is as easy as downloading the free OnLive Desktop app from the Apple App Store or the newly-renamed Google Play Store. Once the app is downloaded, sign up for a free OnLive account and sign into your desktop on your iPad or Android tablet. The login screen is simple and adequate, but missing information as basic as how to purchase a Plus subscription. It also appeared that passwords were not required to be complex in any way.

If you already know that you want the Plus version of OnLive Desktop, I'll save you some trouble and let you know to log into OnLive on your PC or with your tablet browser to buy your subscription. Because subscriptions cannot be purchased from within the OnLive Desktop app, including the browser within the app. I had to hunt down this important tidbit; the only place I found that said subscription purchase couldn't be done within the app was in the Support FAQs on their site.

OnLive Desktop login screen
Figure 2: OnLive Desktop login screen

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