OnLive Desktop Plus impressions: A Windows 7 desktop on your iPad, now with a browser

OnLive Desktop Plus

In January, video game streaming company OnLive decided to enter the remote desktop space with “OnLive Desktop.” The service allows anyone with an iPad (and soon Android or any other computing platform) to access a Windows 7 desktop in the cloud and use it much like any computer. It comes with 2GB of cloud storage and access to Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All for free. Unfortunately, it was missing one critical element: a browser. OnLive restricted access to the browser and didn’t allow the installation of apps. OnLive Desktop Plus changes this.

Today, OnLive is announcing a $5 per month add-on to its Desktop service. Desktop Plus adds browser access to the Windows experience with full Adobe Flash support and gigabit (or close to it) browsing speeds. It leverages OnLive’s huge server farms that normally stream out complex video games to subscribers of its Netflix-like game service. Streaming a Desktop environment, the company found out, is so much easier that it can almost be done as a side project by its servers. 

OnLive Desktop Plus for Android

We met up with OnLive CEO Steve Perlman last week for a demo, and found it impressive. One of the big problems with the original OnLive desktop is how difficult it it is to transfer files out of the remote environment and back onto your iPad or to some other computer. Desktop Plus solves this problem with the browser. Thanks to integration with some Web versions of services like Drop Box, you can now transfer files in quite a few more ways. It’s still not perfect — a fact that Perlman readily admits — but he says the company is working as fast as it can to improve things. 

Using the browser is a uniquely fun experience. Internet Explorer is currently the only browser available, though other options like Chrome will be added in the future. Like with any remote desktop, there is a bit of lag between when you click something on the Windows 7 desktop (which is accessed via an app on your iPad) and when it actually happens. This delay was a fraction of a second on a 4G LTE connection in Manhattan and there’s no great way to get around this ever-so-slight lag. Strangely though, since the Internet connection for these servers your connecting to is so fast, it negates the slight lag you get from the service itself. So while it might take a half second to click on a link, once that click goes through, the Web page actually loads much faster than it normally would on your iPad or PC. Our pages were loading at 750 megabits per second on the day in question. Downloading attachments from email or the Web is also an alarmingly fast experience. A 50 megabyte file downloaded in about a second or two. 

Loading flash content is also a great experience. Flash sites and videos often run slow or sluggishly, but OnLive’s servers are powerful enough to render the most complex sites in seconds  and brows them as if they were Craigslist. For anyone who needs Flash, this is a great service. It’s fast enough that you could watch Hulu or streaming video as well with no real problem at resolutions that would be too high for your machine at home. Activities like this can sometimes use up far less bandwidth as well, under some circumstances. Using OnLive to browse could use as little as 10 percent of the data a regular iPad browser would, according to Perlman. 

Assuming people bite on this $5 plan, a $10 per month Desktop Pro version is also on the way, which will offer 50GB of storage and limited software installation, as well as some extra controls for IT managers, which would be needed should a company decide to deploy OnLive Desktop across their office. Currently, the system is only available on the iPad, but we’ve seen working versions on the iPhone and Android devices of all types. Perlman told us that versions for the PC and Mac aren’t far off either. 

OnLive Desktop Plus - Maya software

Perhaps the most interesting demo we saw was for a program that might eventually be available in the Pro version. It’s professional software called Maya and is used to create 3D animation and visual effects. Right now, to use this software, you have to pay thousands of dollars and you need one beast of a computer to run it, but Perlman showed a demo of it running over OnLive on an iPad like it was nothing. He hinted that the software could be available via the cloud, allowing you to more easily collaborate and take advantage of OnLive’s gigabit Internet speeds to upload the Gigabytes of files it takes to load a complex 3D model or animation. Software like this could potentially be available for a cheaper monthly fee or even for free late at night, bringing down the cost barrier of entry for professional-grade software like this. Imagine the possibilities if anyone had the opportunity and access to learn how to use software like this on their own time. 

We asked Steve if this really fits in with OnLive’s reputation as a games company and he told me that it was never a game company. OnLive is a cloud services company. Gaming just gave them a foot in the door. 


Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.

The best iPad deals for December 2018

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

Doubts emerge over when LG will reveal its folding smartphone

LG may be working on a folding smartphone, making it the latest device manufacturer to be linked to the technology, which may become one of the standout designs of the coming year.

Save up to $800 with the best smartphone deals for December 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $800.

You forgot all about these 6 phones of 2018. Prepare to forget them again

The best phones of the year are memorable, exciting, and ones we all want to buy. But what about the others? We're not talking about bad phones, we're talking about forgettable phones -- ones that aren't even bad enough to be remembered.

Give Rachael Ray a run for her money with these 13 recipe apps

You don’t have to be Gordon Ramsay to make a killer meal, you just need an easy to follow recipe app. We’ve compiled our 13 favorite cooking apps for Android smartphones and iPhones, including countless recipes to suit any taste.

T-Mobile is giving away free iPhone XRs and Galaxy S9s for the holidays

T-Mobile is celebrating the holiday season with a series of deals for customers who want an iPhone XR, Galaxy S9, OnePlus 6T, LG V40, or LG G7. There are terms and conditions to the deals, but they are still worth considering.

Why Honor’s new screen is the hole-y grail in quest to ditch the notch

Honor will release a smartphone with an in-screen camera in the new year, a trend which is gathering momentum in the industry. Honor said it has cracked the formula, and explains what's special about its All-View Display.

Forget 3 being a crowd, 4 is the magic number on the Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei's sequel to the P20 Pro, the P30 Pro, has already started to leak ahead of its 2019 announcement and release. The company is likely to improve even further on the P20 Pro's excellent camera.

How to use Samsung’s Bixby assistant for all of your smartphone tasks

Samsung Bixby is a powerful tool, but not the most intuitive one we've encountered. Here's how to set up and use every feature of Samsung's digital assistant, as well as what to expect in the future.

Declutter your life with our favorite wireless chargers for Android and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.

AT&T makes 5G a reality for a dozen U.S. cities, with more to come in 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.