OnLive Desktop for iPad pictures and hands-on

Available from 12 January via the iTunes App Store, OnLive Desktop is nothing short of a revolution for iPad owners who want a complete working solution for their tablet. It allows them to access and use Windows and Microsoft Office applications remotely, with touch enabled and utilising the power and speed of servers far more meaty than the tablet device could ever offer.

And the best news is that, although there is a pay model for those who require more storage or software, the basic, everyday version is totally free.

Essentially, OnLive Desktop works in a similar fashion to the company's own gaming platform. The client controls Windows and software hosted on OnLive's servers, while feeding low latency video back to the iPad. Instant response actions made on the device are fed via the Internet to OnLive and therefore you have complete control over the screen as if it were stored locally.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all included in the free version, as is 2GB of storage space, with all work done being added to the user's documents folder. Plus, everything is touch enabled, multi-touch even, thereby allowing you to manipulate documents, pictures and the like with sweeps of one or two fingers.

There's also an onscreen keyboard that can be brought up, plus a handwriting reader. Or you can hook the iPad up to a Bluetooth keyboard, essentially turning it into a fully working netbook-style machine.

The really exciting stuff comes, however, with the paid version of the app. For a subscription of $9.99 a month, an individual can access the other applications that make up the Office suite - such as OneNote and Publisher. In addition, this package includes a web browser that, because it is hooked up to a host server with superfast broadband, runs like the clappers.

During our hands-on demo of OnLive Desktop during CES in Las Vegas, we visited Speedtest.net for a quick check of the ping and up and download speeds. The ping was 4ms (in fact, a second try got that down to 3ms), while the download speed was over 445Mbps. Even more impressive was that its upload speed was over 300Mbps. When the app finally hits the UK, that'll be faster than anything else on offer beyond professional connections.

In addition, as the browser is hosted on a remote PC rather than the iPad itself, it is also fully Flash compliant. There will be nothing streamed or animated that you won't be able to browse on the tablet.

The subscription model also allows for multiple users to access the same Desktop; thousands of them, in fact. And those who pay will also get 50GB of storage space.

The paid version, OnLive Desktop Pro, isn't available quite yet though, with only the free app hitting iTunes initially. The company wants to assess the load on its servers and usage trends in order to offer the best service available before it starts to charge. It is also for this reason that the app won't be available outside the US for a while. And there's no definitive timescale for its expansion as yet.

Certainly, however, from our brief play, we genuinely believe that it could be a massive leap forward in cloud computing. And when it also reaches Android, iPhone, PC and Mac, as planned, we're pretty sure it'll make serious waves.