A decade ago, PC makers and server software makers such as Oracle tried to push a concept called thin-client computing on unwilling customers. But this week, the first truly brilliant thin-client computing solution appeared courtesy of OnLive, which now offers free and subscription versions of a service that streams the Windows desktop—at blazing speeds—to iPad users.
OnLive offers two versions of its OnLive Desktop solution. The free version, simply called OnLive Desktop, provides iPad users with a full Windows 7 desktop and free access to the latest versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as Adobe Reader (PDF), and 2GB of online storage. Users can sync documents between this online desktop and their PCs via the DropBox cloud storage solution.
A paid version of the solution, called OnLive Desktop Plus, costs $5 per month and adds full Flash player capabilities plus a back-end 1Gb connection for lightning-fast speeds. (Since the app only sends video to the iPad, it works fine on 4G or Wi-Fi connections.) A future version, called OnLive Desktop Pro, will cost $10 per month, will provide 50GB of online storage, and promises to let customers install and use any Windows software. An enterprise version is also planned.
Today, OnLive Plus overcomes one of the iPad's key weaknesses: the ability to enjoy the copious amounts of content created with Adobe's Flash technology. This includes Flash-based websites of all kinds, including popular services such as the free version of Hulu.com.
"Experiencing a full Flash-enabled Web experience at gigabit speeds on iPad is nothing short of breathtaking, and OnLive Desktop Plus is your ticket to ride," says OnLive Founder and CEO Steve Perlman. "Combine that with OnLive Desktop's full-featured Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader PC applications, and not only do you have the world's fastest mobile browser but the world's most powerful productivity tools literally at your fingertips."
Although OnLive Desktop is available only on the iPad for now, OnLive promises that the app will soon ship on Android and iPhone smartphones, Windows-based PCs, Macs, and—via the company's existing video game set-top box with Bluetooth-based keyboards and mice—on TVs as well. The app is currently available only in the United States but will soon expand to other countries, including the United Kingdom, OnLive says.