Virtual Microsoft Office Now Available On iPad

Onlive Desktop app for iPad launched with a big fanfare this week. The app provides a virtual Windows 7 interface with full ‘cloud’ versions of Microsoft Office applications including Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

It provides a cloud (internet) based virtual PC desktop on your iPad i.e. it replicates a Windows 7 PC experience – but without the security issues and crashes!

The Windows 7 interface and Office programs run on Onlive’s servers in the cloud so you do need an internet connection (preferably wifi) to access them and speed will depend on your internet speed and capacity/performance of Onlive’s servers – at the moment they appear to be wilting a little under the strain as the service is so new and being taken up by so many early adopters… Features include:

  • Instantly view, edit and create documents using actual Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • Easily transfer files between OnLive Desktop and other devices
  • Interact with lag-free animation and video
  • Standard (free) account offers 2GB of secure cloud (online) storage, appearing as your Documents folder on your Onlive Desktop

How To Use Onlive Desktop?

First you need to sign up for a free Onlive account here. Next, download the free Onlive Desktop app – available in iTunes here.

Launch the iPad app and sign in with your new Onlive account.


The Standard (free) account only provides 2GB of cloud storage and, although this storage should always be available, access to the virtual W7 desktop itself is subject to availability i.e. it may not be possible to access it and create/edit documents at certain times or when Onlive’s servers are too busy.

It remains to be seen how restrictive this will become – as the app is new, huge demand may initially cause problems accessing the service with some users already reporting that the service is unavailable at times…

Onlive’s business objective is probably to persuade free users to upgrade to the Pro account (starting at $9.99 per month) offering priority access to the interface, 50GB of cloud storage and the ability to add a limited range of extra PC applications to the virtual Windows 7 interface.

Who Will Use Onlive Desktop?

My guess is that it will appeal greatly to managers struggling to find a legitimate business case for equipping themselves with Apple’s latest toy computing accessory. The benefits of a Blackberry or iPhone in business are obvious but an iPad is a much harder sell.

The only real advantage an iPad has over a cheaper Windows 7 laptop is portability – but a W7 netbook is even cheaper again and probably more robust. However, adding a virtual Microsoft Office might sway businesses into treating the iPad as a useful tool rather than an expensive executive plaything/status symbol.

Other groups who could benefit from the Windows 7 interface would be those who have invested time or money in Microsoft Office software and training e.g. schools, universities and students.

Most importantly of all, the majority of existing (and potential) ordinary iPad users are Windows computer users who are used to Windows computers at home and work – and most of them will use Microsoft Office. Providing the capability to use Office on the iPad is a great move to attract more casual users.

It remains to be seen whether Microsoft take this lying down – on the one hand, making Office even more ubiquitous locks people into Microsoft’s proprietary software but, on the other hand, if people start using Cloud versions of Office for nothing rather than buying it…