I saw a little e-mail the other day that linked to an article at ZDNet about a new app for the iPad – OnLive Desktop – which promised to deliver a virtual Windows 7 desktop and Office applications over the air. Of course, I popped right on over to the web site at OnLive and signed up to be notified when the service was opened up. Well, this morning I received my e-mail that my account was ready to go, so I fired up my iPad, downloaded the OnLive Desktop app, and got going. Here’s a very quick overview of the service, because I had very little time to really investigate this morning.
First, I launched the OnLive Desktop app:
After the splash screen displayed, I was prompted to log in with my OnLive credentials. I had created these earlier in the week when I requested notification of the service availability.
Once I got signed in, I was prompted to agree with their Terms of Service and other policies, which I did.
Then it attempted to connect. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see this “currently full” message, since I think the service went live in the last 24-48 hours and there are probably a lot of people like me trying to connect in and see how this thing works.
After a brief wait (less than 5 minutes), the service cleared and I got a connection. I was presented with a full Windows 7 desktop, including desktop shortcuts to the Office applications, the Documents folder, and other resources.
I looked in the Video Library of the documents folder and perused a couple of the online videos provided. The streaming quality of the video files was not bad, although there were a couple of points where I experienced network congestion and the video image artifacted (is that a word?) pretty badly. It cleared up within seconds, however.
I also checked to see what else was on the Start menu for the virtual desktop.
In one of the guides I read while waiting for the initial connection to be made, I saw a note that said you should upload one or more files to the desktop using the http://files.onlive.com address. That link requests your credentials for your OnLive account.
Once I signed in, I could see that there were no files in the document library. But by this point, the application had come back up.
I launched Microsoft Word, and it opened up pretty quickly on the screen.
I created a basic document and started to enter text using the on-screen keyboard. This was relatively clumsy to use, especially given my familiarity with the iPad on-screen keyboard, but it worked.
I also tried the handwriting tool, and despite my absolutely horrible handwriting (I’m just not used to “writing” on the iPad screen), it was able to translate my scribble correctly.
I went to save the file and made sure to save it in the Documents folder, Fortunately, that was the default.
After quitting Word, I went back to the document library on the virtual Windows machine, and there was my highly important file, showing exactly where it should have been.
I also checked the web files area, and sure enough, the document was showing there as well. Synchronization time was pretty fast (of course, this was a really small file).
For grins, I uploaded a larger file to see how long it would take to synchronize. I opened the web upload tool, and it allows you to select 5 files at a time for upload, if needed.
I selected my one file, uploaded it, and checked that it showed in the web files Documents folder.
Almost immediately, the file also showed up in the OnLive Desktop documents folder. I saw the note in the taskbar that it was synchronizing the files, and it was less than a minute before I saw the “files synchronized” notice and was able to open the new file.
This PowerPoint document was created using PowerPoint 2011 for the Macintosh, but it had no problems opening in PowerPoint 2010 on the OnLive Desktop machine.
I went through the slide desk in presentation mode, and periodically noticed some video artifacting during the display. I tried to grab a shot of the artifacting, but this was as close as I could get after multiple attempts, so I stopped trying.
After that, I quit PowerPoint and logged off the virtual machine. OnLive Desktop then told me my session was complete and that I would need to open the app again to sign into my account again.
All in all, I was pretty impressed with the performance of the virtual machine during this quick look. My iPad is connected to an Apple AirPort Express at home, and we have a 20/10 FiOS connection at the house, so our bandwidth is really good here. In future testing, I’ll connect my iPad over my Verizon MiFi and see how the network performance is there. I’ll also do more testing and looking at the tablet tools that are provided to help you get more effective with the tablet interface of the virtual machine. Out of the box, and for no cost for 2.0GB of hosted storage, this is pretty much a win-win for someone who needs to edit or display Office documents on their iPad. I’ll have other posts as I find other meaningful uses of the application.