March 02, 2012, 8:30 AM — OnLive has released its OnLive Desktop client for Android. You can get it from the Android Market. This is a new client, distinct from the OnLive gaming client, that gives you access to a Windows 7 desktop including a full copy of Microsoft Office. The cost? Free. The catch? Well you only get 2GB of space, which I guess you could spin as a catch.
The real catch is that if you want to surf the web you'll need a $4.99/month OnLive Desktop Plus account. With that you get "OnLive’s gigabit-speed accelerated browsing experience." The idea is that you request a web page, OnLive's servers run out and get it via their fat pipes and do all the rendering, and then stream the resulting page to you.
This is essentially the same app that they've offered on iOS for a few weeks, but this version is better. Why? Because it's on Android, of course!
OK Android fanboyism aside, what I like about OnLive Desktop on my Android tablet is that I have a USB port. Not all Android tablets do, of course, but if yours does you can connect any old mouse or keyboard to your tablet and get the full Windows experience. Just for grins I plugged my Logitech wireless mouse dongle into my Acer A500 tablet and sure enough, OnLive Desktop recognized it!
So how well does it all work? That's going to be entirely dependent on how solid your WiFi/3G connection is. Just to be abusive I wandered into the dead zone of my apartment, where WiFi goes to die. For whatever reason this one corner of my apartment gets a lousy WiFi signal, and using OnLive Desktop there was an exercise in frustration. To be fair, I got several pop-ups warning me that my connection wasn't fast enough to get a good experience.
Then I went and sat down next to my wireless router and the experience was completely different. Using Windows 7's touch keyboard is about as awkward as using the touch keyboard on your tablet is, so I do suggest hooking up some kind of physical keyboard if you expect to get work done, but otherwise the experience was pretty good.
So that's great and all, but what good are files that are locked away on OnLive's servers? They've got that covered, too. On your 'regular' PC navigate to http://files.online.com, log in with your account and you'll have access to all the files you created in OnLive Desktop. You can upload files to work on later, too.
All in all, it's a pretty neat service, but if you're curious you should just head over to http://desktop.onlive.com and sign up for a free account and take it for a test drive (if you have an OnLive gaming account, that'll work with Desktop too). That's the easiest way to know for sure how well the service will perform in your space.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.