While the Apple iPad has become the tablet of choice for consumers and business users alike, it lacks certain mainstream tools, most notably Microsoft Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Windows tablets, at least until Windows 8 models appear later this year, tend to be clunky, but run the full range of productivity software.
Fortunately, if you want to experience the best of both worlds, you don't have to buy two devices, as there are an increasing number of options for people who want to run Windows--in various ways--on an iPad. Here's a look at six potential solutions.
1. OnLive: Originally a gaming service, streaming software company OnLive recently rolled out OnLive Desktop, which lets you access a version of Windows on an iPad. OnLive first offered Windows 7 through the service, but has since switched to Windows Server 2008 R2 (following a licensing dispute with Microsoft.) The service now has Redmond's blessing.
The free tier offers access to the full suite of Office apps and 2GB of cloud storage. For $4.99 per month, users also get Flash support and "Gigabit-speed" storage. The $9.99 per month Pro edition, which OnLive says is coming soon, provides 50GB of storage.
2. Splashtop: For developers who want to get a jumpstart on testing Windows 8 apps, Splashtop this week released a remote desktop app called Win8 Metro Testbed. The app allows developers to code and compile Windows 8 Metro apps on a PC, and then stream the apps to a simulated Win8 environment on an iPad. That gives developers the chance to test elements such as layout and touch sensitivity without having to wait until Microsoft and its partners release actual Windows 8 tablet hardware later this year.
Splashtop says Win8 Metro Testbed supports the full range of Windows 8 gestures, including swipe, pinch, and pull down.
[ Looking for a tablet that can run Windows 8 right now? See 8 Tablets Fit For Windows 8 Beta. ]
3. Nivio: Nivio's nDesktop service offers you access to a cloud-based Windows desktop from any device, including the iPad and other tablets. The company offers three ways to access the service—from a downloadable client, a standard browser, or through an HTML5-based Web client.
By Nivio's own admission, however, the service is limited in some key areas--video playback, gaming, and Webcams are not supported, although the company says it's working on these features. Nivio's virtual Windows desktop also won't run executable files. Still, it's not like the service requires a big investment. nDesktop plans start at $2 per month.