We’ve already reviewed OnLive Desktop, which essentially brings virtualized but full versions of Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint to the Apple iPad. It’s free and currently available in the Apple App Store as well as the Android Market for tablets. Now, OnLive has introduced a new $4.99-a-month plan, OnLive Desktop Plus, which adds Internet Explorer to the mix, along with priority access when tunneling into OnLive Desktop. With IE, you can browse the Web without needing to exit the app and open Safari on your iPad. More significantly, IE comes with Flash support.
You can’t upgrade to the Plus within the OnLive Desktop (you need to upgrade to OnLive Desktop Plus to gain Internet access within the app, but you need Internet access in order to upgrade to Plus). Thus, you will need to navigate your way to the OnLive Desktop Web site from a computer or via Safari on your iPad. Purchase the plan and then sign back into the OnLive Desktop app and you’ll suddenly find the ability to browse the Web via IE (Explorer shows up on the free OnLive Desktop account, but you can’t use it to browse the Web until you subscribe to the Plus plan).
We found Web browsing to be fast and fairly smooth, even though it occasionally became pixelated for a second or two when scrolling down a page. This was the same effect we saw when scrolling down Word and Excel docs. It’s hard to pin down the culprit however, the app or our Wi-Fi connection. You can scroll by using the standard two-finger scroll on your iPad, and you can also use the slider along IE’s right edge. You can also pinch to zoom in and out of pages. As with standard IE, you can set your homepage (Settings > Internet options) how you like, and tabbed browsing is supported.
Pages load quickly, and video plays smoothly. OnLive Desktop claims you’ll be browsing at Gigabit speed, since everything is happening on its servers. You can browse via IE over Wi-Fi and cellular connection; we used it on a Wi-Fi-only iPad and found the speed to be outstanding.
Most remarkable, perhaps, is the support for Flash. Web browsing on the iPad with Safari is great and all, until you come to a page with a Flash video you’d like to view. For example, the only Hulu app for the iPad is the subscription-based Hulu Plus that’ll run you $7.99 a month, and you can watch all the free Hulu videos you’d like on IE with OnLive Desktop Plus for less. In our experience, videos loaded quickly, played smoothly, and looked fairly sharp.
What can’t you do with IE on OnLive Desktop Plus? Well, you can’t run any executables, which means you can’t use IE to download and install Firefox or Chrome or any other bit of software. And, as with the rest of OnLive Desktop, you are forced to use the Windows onscreen keyboard, which isn’t nearly as comfortable and easy to use as the native iPad keyboard.
Check out our full OnLive Desktop review for more information on the rest of the service, as well as our OnLive gaming service for tablets review. Also, OnLive Desktop is not the only way to bring Office and IE to the iPad, virtualization services like LogMeIn and GoToMyPC can also turn an iPad into a desktop-like environment.