OnLive Desktop for the iPad by OnLive Inc.
Free for basic version; $4.99 a month for Desktop Plus, at onlive.com
The iPad does a pretty good imitation of a laptop computer, especially when you combine it with an external keyboard. But sometimes it’d be nice to fire up our old friend Microsoft Office for some serious word processing or spreadsheet crunching.
There are rumors afoot that Microsoft will indeed bring a version of Office to the iPad, but why wait? A free app called OnLive Desktop gives you cloud-based access to Office, running on a remote Windows 7 computer. You also get two gigabytes of storage to stash any documents you might create. It's such a good idea that OnLive has just released a version for Android tablets, and plans to make it available on other computing devices.
And for $4.99 a month, you can get Desktop Plus, a service that gives you access to all the features of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. So what? You can browse the Web for free using the Apple Safari browser on the iPad, right? Well, sort of. Safari doesn’t support Flash videos, so you’re barred from thousands of popular websites that use the technology. Desktop Plus and its Microsoft browser give you full access to every Flash-based site. In addition, OnLive promises dramatically faster downloads, because the remote Windows computers running the service are connected to a one-gigabit Internet connection.
Personally, I found the extra speed irrelevant for most desktop applications. And while it’s nice to have Flash access on the iPad, it’s not essential. The coolest thing about OnLive Desktop is the ability to run Office from everybody’s favorite tablet. And that feature just happens to be free.
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