3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office on Your iPad, Android Tablet

Check out these three cloud-based services that enable you to use Office apps on your iPad or Android tablet. Each service offers something different, but CIO.com blogger James A. Martin likes one in particular.

Microsoft is expected to announce Office apps for the iPad and Android tablets in November, according to tech news site Boy Genius Report.

But you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving, since there is no shortage of options for getting Microsoft Office software on your tablets. Here’s a quick look at the top three contenders.

OnLive Desktop

(By OnLive, Inc. Free and paid versions for Android and iOS.)

OnLive Desktop serves up an entire Windows desktop environment, including 2010 versions of Office apps as well as several Windows utilities such as Paint, Microsoft Blackboard and Windows Media Player. OnLive Desktop’s hosted cloud-based service renders the Windows environment on your tablet, which means you must be online to use the tools--which is also the case for the other two services mentioned in this post.

OnLive offers several different service plans, including a free, basic service, which offers “as available” service to OnLive Desktop’s servers. For $5 a month, you get priority access to the servers and a faster, smoother experience. The pro plan ($10 a month) and other versions are coming soon, according to the company.

The app has lots of room for improvement, however. In my February OnLive Desktop review, I noted the difficulty of using the iPad’s touch interface along with Office apps that are designed for mouse input and the fact that you lose your connection when you switch to another app. My fellow CIO.com blogger Tom Kaneshige, in his article “Who Wants Microsoft Office on the iPad?,” added that file transfers between OnLive Desktop and the iPad are a kludgy affair. Also, you’re stuck using the app’s Windows virtual keyboard instead of the more familiar, easier iPad virtual keyboard.

CloudOn

(By CloudOn, Inc. Free apps for Android and iOS.)

Though CloudOn doesn’t offer OnLive Desktop’s Windows desktop environment, it does a great job focusing on free, cloud-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint on your tablet.

CloudOn plays well with Dropbox and Box accounts, avoiding the roundabout file transfers that OnLive Desktop requires. Plus, CloudOn adds useful keys to your tablet’s virtual keyboard, such as Esc, Del, Ctrl, Alt and all 12 function keys, rather than forcing you to use a different tablet keyboard entirely. For these reasons, I prefer CloudOn to OnLive Desktop.

For more about CloudOn, read my mini review or check out my colleague Galen Gruman’s take, “Finally! An Office Cloud Service for iPad Worth Using.”

CloudOn screen shot

nivio

(By nivio. Fee-based access to Office apps from Windows, Macs, Android and iOS devices.)

Nivio takes a completely different approach to cloud-based Office apps. The service consists of three components: nDrive, for storing and syncing your files across multiple devices; nDesktop, which enables you to access a full Windows desktop from your devices; and nApp Store, through which you can run Microsoft Office and other applications, such as Corel Draw, in your nDesktop environment.

Instead of delivering its services through apps developed for iOS and Android devices, nivio built an HTML 5 client to make its services available on Macs and Windows PCs as well as mobile devices. After a free 30-day trial, you pay $5 per month and up for nDesktop and nDrive, depending on usage. And you also pay for Office and other apps you "rent." I’ve not tried nivio yet, and I like the idea of being able to rent a variety of Windows apps on demand, and only as needed. But the nivio site could do a much better job explaining the service and its application software rental options.

Your Take?

Are you using any of these services to get Office on your tablet? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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