By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated February 24, 2012.
An iPad with a gigabit connection, continually updated Windows, full Office apps, and Adobe Flash. No, we're not talking about an alternate Apple universe. We're talking about the new OnLive Desktop Plus.
Plus is the latest version of the free OnLive Desktop app, made available last month from the company that specializes in fast streaming of hosted video games. Applying the same technology and data centers, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based OnLive has now released the Plus update.
'Fastest Mobile Flash Player'
For a $4.99 monthly fee, Plus adds one-gigabit-per-second speed, full Flash player capability, priority connectivity access, and Internet Explorer to the free app's features -- Windows 7, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Reader for PDFs, and two gigabytes of online storage.
OnLive described Plus in a statement as "the world's fastest mobile browsing experience, if not the fastest consumer browsing experience available on any device." In fact, it pointed out, with Plus the iPad becomes not only completely Flash-compatible, but "the world's fastest mobile Flash player."
OnLive said that the high speed is not dependent on the device's local Internet connectivity. But the New York Times' David Pogue has noted that "3G connections and feeble hotel Wi-Fi hot spots are too slow to be satisfying" with Desktop Plus, and that a two-megabit connection, such as over LTE MiFi, works best.
The free Desktop App soon will be available for Android devices, Windows and Mac PCs, and even TV monitors through settop boxes. When the OnLive Desktop is available for other platforms, users can access their own desktop from any device, at any resolution.
An OnLive Desktop Pro is planned, with a $9.99/month fee. It will have the same features as Plus, as well as 50GB of cloud storage and the ability to customize the Desktop with any PC apps.
An OnLive Enterprise version is also under development, with the ability for IT departments to manage OnLive desktops, as well as the ability for custom integration by independent software vendors. Pro and Enterprise will also offer desktop sharing with voice chat for small groups or thousands of concurrent users.
To describe the available speed, OnLive said that a 50 megabyte file from, say, Dropbox, or a 15 megabyte attachment from Web e-mail such as Gmail or Yahoo, can download in less than a second. Web browsing data usage is also reduced, the company said, because only the top layer of a currently-viewed Web site is sent, resulting in a data usage reduction by a factor of 10 or more.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said that "there are still some kinks to be worked out" with OnLive's Desktops in terms of ease of use, and that the touch interaction -- currently utilizing Windows 7's Touch Pack add-on -- will likely be better once it is integrated with the coming touch-optimized Windows 8.
But, DiDio said, OnLive is pointing to a direction of very high speed connectivity and full productivity apps for tablets.
"If you're a road warrior, or a doctor, and trying to edit something" on a tablet while standing or in a car, she noted, Desktop Plus or something like it "might be just what you need."