First Look: OnLive Desktop for iPad


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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:

OnLive Desktop Splash Screen

OnLive Desktop Splash Screen

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.

Sign into OnLive account

Sign into OnLive account

Once I got signed in, I was prompted to agree with their Terms of Service and other policies, which I did.

OnLive Terms of Service

OnLive Terms of Service

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.

OnLive Service Full

OnLive Service Full

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.

OnLive Windows 7 Desktop

OnLive Windows 7 Desktop

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.

OnLive Sample Video Files

OnLive Sample Video Files

I also checked to see what else was on the Start menu for the virtual desktop.

OnLive Windows 7 Start Menu

OnLive Windows 7 Start Menu

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.

OnLive Files Web Sign-in

OnLive Files Web Sign-in

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.

OnLive Files Web View (empty)

OnLive Files Web View (empty)

I launched Microsoft Word, and it opened up pretty quickly on the screen.

OnLive Desktop Word 2010

OnLive Desktop Word 2010

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.

OnLive Desktop Keyboard Entry

OnLive Desktop Keyboard Entry

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.

OnLive Desktop Handwriting Tool

OnLive Desktop Handwriting Tool

I went to save the file and made sure to save it in the Documents folder, Fortunately, that was the default.

OnLive Desktop File Save

OnLive Desktop File Save

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.

OnLive Desktop Documents Folder

OnLive Desktop Documents Folder

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).

OnLive Web Files Documents Folder

OnLive Web Files Documents Folder

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.

OnLive Files Upload Tool

OnLive Files Upload Tool

I selected my one file, uploaded it, and checked that it showed in the web files Documents folder.

OnLive Files Document Uploaded

OnLive Files Document Uploaded

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.

OnLive Desktop Document Synchronized

OnLive Desktop Document Synchronized

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.

OnLive Desktop PowerPoint Document

OnLive Desktop PowerPoint Document

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.

OnLive Desktop PowerPoint Presentation Artifacting

OnLive Desktop PowerPoint Presentation Artifacting

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.

OnLive Desktop Log Off

OnLive Desktop Log Off

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.