While an ever-so-slight delay in input recognition is part and parcel with the cloud-based streaming approach, Windows 7 runs admirably on the iPad via OnLive Desktop. The lack of Retina support is unfortunate, and occasional visual artifacts will appear; during scrolling, in particular, parts of the screen may become blurry and distorted for a moment.
Still, the ability to access a Windows 7 install – albeit a very simple, feature-limited one – at a moment's notice can be incredibly helpful for business travelers who need quick access to Office or a Flash-enabled browser on the iPad.
Problem is, the OnLive service itself isn't reliable enough to support much more than brief usage, as we frequently encountered Network Errors and unexpected service drops that disrupted the flow of use.
It wasn't often clear why the service would struggle to maintain a connection using a high-speed Wi-Fi network that otherwise performed admirably on the iPad and other devices. The little hitches are more prevalent than full-on service drops, but still manage to put a crimp in the action.
OnLive Desktop makes Windows 7 usage on iPad an unexpected reality, and at its best, the service proves capable of serving up relatively speedy access to Office and a Flash-based browser.
For professionals on the go, or those who simply need occasional use of Windows programs on an iPad, OnLive Desktop can fill that void, but not without frustration and notable limitations. Brief connection drops are the primary concern, though the service does occasionally sputter out entirely, forcing you to restart the app.
Most users will likely find the free service enough to get the job done, though the fact that server access isn't guaranteed is disappointing. Paying $4.99 a month adds access to the Flash-enabled Internet Explorer and priority access to servers, but with the limited overall feature set and performance issues, that's bound to be a tough sell for many users.
OnLive Desktop's core conceit is brilliant, no doubt, and unmatched on the App Store. That alone makes it a worthwhile download for those occasional moments when Windows access is needed in a pinch.
But the service has lingering issues, and the Plus service isn't a significant upgrade over the free option, despite the added expense, aside from guaranteeing server access for regular users. Perhaps the still-to-come Pro service can sort out some of hitches while adding functionality, though that remains to be seen.