Some of you might know OnLive as the cloud gaming service that lets you play the latest video games on your 5-year old laptop, on your TV, or even on your smartphone or tablet. How does OnLive accomplish this apparent feat of magic? It’s simple and very cool: all the processing is handled by OnLive’s cloud servers, which simply stream the game to your device, just like Netflix does with movies. When you click or hit a key, the input is sent to the cloud, and the resulting animation is streamed back to you. With a good connection, even frantic first person shooters play smoothly, and overall, the illusion is close to perfect.
By offloading all the processing loads to its servers, OnLive makes it possible for users to enjoy a high-end gaming experience on just about any device that can be connected to the Internet. The next logical step? Offer the full PC experience on tablets.
If OnLive is able to seamlessly stream complex video games, it can definitely handle streaming a full Windows PC desktop. This is exactly what you get with the OnLive Desktop app for Android tablets that just launched last week.
OnLive Desktop comes in several plans, including a free plan that gives you access to a cloud-based Windows 7 machine, plus access to Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Acrobat Reader. You also get 2GB of free storage space, so you can save your files in OnLive’s cloud. To make the files from your PC or Mac accessible on OnLive Desktop, you’ll have to manually upload them on OnLive’s site, but after that, you’ll find them in the Documents folder, on your virtual Windows 7 machine.
We’ve put OnLive Desktop through its paces, and we can confirm that the app runs smoothly for most of the time. It’s easy to forget that you’re not using Windows 7 on your tablet, especially if you connect a keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth. The spell is only broken when you try to right-click – for some reason,
only left-click is supported. UPDATE: Andrew PyGy Pyle, let us known that you can simulate the right-click in Onlive Desktop by holding one finger on the screen and tapping with another one. Thanks Andy for the tip!
And here’s a video of OnLive Desktop in action, courtesy of YouTube user PyGuy95:
OnLive Desktop is available in several versions, besides the free version that we described above. The Desktop Plus version costs $4.99/month and gives you priority access to OnLive’s virtual infrastructure, as well as a “Gigabit-accelerated” Flash-supporting browser (IE9). In other words, regardless of your Internet connection, you’re pages will load in a blink, because OnLive’s cloud will do all the heavy lifting for you.
The Desktop Pro version, available for $9.99, is currently listed as coming soon. It will give you a whopping 50GB of storage space and the possibility to customize your virtual PC by adding your own applications (must be vetted by OnLive). And finally, there’s the Enterprise version, which gives you all sorts of business-oriented bells and whistles.
For now, OnLive Desktop has been tested on a limited number of slates, but it should work on any tablet running Android 2.3 or higher. Here are the officially approved slates:
Even in the limited free version, OnLive Desktop is quite impressive. You do need to jump through some hoops to be productive, but remember that you get free access to the Office suite. Several other virtualization apps let you use your Windows PC or server from your tablet, but only OnLive Desktop makes it so simple to work from your tablet. The most important limitation? Your connection speed. Without a good Wi-Fi or 4G plan, you won’t be able to enjoy OnLive Desktop. So, you should probably hold on to your PC just a little bit longer.