Will Microsoft Office Finally Play Nice on the iPad?

For all the success the iPad has enjoyed, it's only big drawback has been that Microsoft Windows software - and Microsoft Office, in particular - doesn't perform well. However, now Parallels has unveiled an app that brings full versions of Windows desktop software to the touch-based iPad.

For years, the big knock on the iPad is that Windows desktop software plays poorly on the touch-based tablet, if it plays at all. The market is littered with failed attempts, namely OnLive's train wreck, as well as a plethora of watered-down versions of Microsoft Office for the iPad.

Now Parallels thinks it has found the answer in a new iPad app called Access, which it unveiled today. Parallels says it spent two years in stealth mode developing a touch-gesture interface that maps to the mouse and keyboard—one that closely resembles the native iPad experience.

parallels.jpg

Here's how it works: Users launch the Access app over their Wi-Fi or 4G-connected iPad, which, in turn, remotely accesses their Mac or Windows computer running a Parallels desktop agent. Through Access, iPad users can use their full-blown desktop software that's "applified" by the touch-gesture interface.

"The app is unique in that it customizes and optimizes—or 'applifies,' a term Parallels coined—all of your desktop applications by enabling native tap and swipe-type gestures that will be an innovative intuitive experience for iPad users," says Laura DiDio, principal at Information Technology Intelligence Consulting. "It's going to disrupt the market, not the user."

Here's a video of Access in action:

I got a sneak preview of Access earlier this month and was impressed with its speed over 4G, although moving around graphics in Microsoft Office seemed a bit slow and buggy. Not too surprising for a beta version. Then there's the screen-size problem: Some desktop apps require too much screen real estate to ever really work well on a tablet, regardless of Access' magnifying glass feature.

Parallels had hoped to get Access out sooner but faced delays after Apple's developer website was hacked in mid-July and stayed down for a month.

Access is available on the App Store for a free trial run before an annual subscription at $79.99 for each computer being accessed kicks in. After you download the app to the iPad, download a Mac or Windows agent to your computer. The free trial lasts 14 days for the Mac.

The free Windows trial, however, may last several weeks because the Windows agent is still in beta. Parallels says Windows is more of a challenge, because the Windows agent must be tested on many PC hardware configurations.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

Insider Resume Makeover: How (and When) to Break the Rules
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies