OnLive Desktop Brings Cloud-based, Free Access to Microsoft Office Apps to the iPad

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OnLive Desktop for iPad

OnLive Desktop is a new app that gives you access Microsoft Office apps running on a virtual Windows 7 machine, right from your iPad. Here’s a little more intro detail on it via its App Store page:

OnLive® Desktop is a service that provides a seamless, no-compromise, instant-response cloud-based PC desktop, wherever and whenever you want it. OnLive brings to your iPad a high-performance PC experience, regardless of the content, even when interacting with fast-action media.

• Instantly view, edit and create documents using actual Microsoft® Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint
• Easily transfer files between OnLive Desktop and other devices
• Experience high-performance, instant-response PC applications
• Interact with lag-free animation and video
Based on groundbreaking video compression technology, OnLive harnesses the power of cloud computing to deliver a seamless, no-compromise remote PC desktop solution.

I’ve been trying out OnLive Desktop this morning and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the app / service so far.

I haven’t been a regular Microsoft Office user in years, as I’ve been working for myself and I just haven’t needed Office apps. I do still run a Windows virtual machine on my MacBook Pro and still use one essential Windows app (Windows Live Writer). So you can bear that in mind, an take my thoughts on this app with a healthy grain of salt if you like.

Anyway, as an absolute non MS Office expert, here are my quick first impression thoughts and notes on using OnLIve Desktop:

— The app is free. You need to sign up for an OnLive account in order to use it. The account is also free and you can get one at When I signed up a couple days ago, access was not instant. I had to wait a bit for my account to be activated – they send an email to let you know when your account is live and ready to use.

— The first few times I’ve run the app and logged in, I can’t get into the service right away. I see the following message:

“The OnLive service is currently full. You will be connected as soon as possible.”

It only took a minute or two to get in each time. Given that this is a shared cloud service and it has only recently launched I think this is acceptable.

— Once you’re in, you’re presented with a Windows 7 machine with the basic MS Office suite installed and the familiar Windows 7 desktop. There’s a guided tour sort of presentation that pops up the first time you get in. I only glanced at that very quickly and it wasn’t needed. If you know your way around Windows you’ll be just fine without it.

— There’s a Samples folder on the desktop with a set of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents to look at and help you test out using the controls in the app and working with documents.

OnLive Desktop for iPad

OnLive Desktop for iPad

— There’s also a Windows 7 Touch Pack folder where you can try out Microsoft Surface Collage and a few other fun items.

— Performance and responsiveness in the app is as good as in any remote access app I’ve seen. I’ve found that taps are recognized exceptionally well, even when targeting the smallest of buttons in toolbars. It’s also very easy to move the cursor around within text blocks and to select blocks of text.

— One feature of the app that I have not enjoyed so far is its keyboard. It uses its own keyboard rather than the iPad’s standard one. The keys are significantly smaller and I’ve found it very awkward to use so far.

OnLive Desktop for iPad

— OnLive Desktop is shared environment, so it does not let keep any changes that you make to Windows or Applications settings. All your documents also stay only within OnLive – there’s no sync to Dropbox or other similar services and no file sharing or copying options to anywhere local on the iPad.

Overall OnLive Desktop is a very slick and pleasant experience – though the keyboard definitely needs to be improved. If I had a need to work with MS Office documents regularly, this would definitely be an option I’d look at.

Here’s an App Store link for OnLive Desktop.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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7 thoughts on “OnLive Desktop Brings Cloud-based, Free Access to Microsoft Office Apps to the iPad”

  1. The above link to the App Store fails and the app does not appear to exist when conducting a search of the store.

    1. Hmmm. The link works fine for me on the desktop in the Chrome browser and on my iPad 2. Are you getting a ‘not available in the store’ type error? Maybe this is a US only app?

  2. Yeah, US only… Just make a US apple-id to download this app, then change back to your regular id…

  3. I always get error message ” Your connection to Internet is not sufficient to prvide good video quality”. I have 5Mbps high speed links.

  4. NOOOOOOOO! I buy Apple products to escape the hellish grip that Microsoft has on computing! Why would I want an app that displays Microsofts products — Apple (and third party) make at least comparable products, if not better.

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