by James A. Martin

Nivio Awkwardly Brings Office Apps to Android, iOS

Jun 18, 20124 mins
Productivity SoftwareTablets

Nivio lets you "rent" desktop software to run on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices, which is a cool concept, according to blogger James A. Martin. But the service is complicated and frustrating.

UPDATE: Please see comments from nivio’s CEO at the end of this post.

The idea behind nivio is unique. Instead of purchasing apps you might only use a few times, such as Microsoft Visio 2010 for Windows, you can rent them on an as-needed basis. And you can access the rented apps from any Windows, Mac, iOS or Android device.

As I outlined in last week’s blog post “3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office on Your iPad, Android Tablet,” nivio takes a different approach to serving up cloud-based software, and it has real potential. To get started, you sign up for an account and download the nivio software to your computer. The first 30 days are free. Plans after that start at $5 a month; app rentals cost extra. For example, Visio is $8.50 per month.

Using the desktop nivio client, you create a local nDrive folder—which works essentially like Dropbox, syncing files across various devices. You can also launch your nDesktop, a virtual Windows desktop, using the desktop client. nDesktop lets you access nApps. These are the rent-as-needed desktop software applications I mentioned such as Visio, Microsoft Project 2010, Office software and other programs.

You can also access nDrive files and nApps on iPads and Android tablets. To do so, you have two options. One is to download and install the free Wyse PocketCloud Remote Desktop app for iOS or Android; there are currently no “official” nivio iOS or Android apps. The other option is to use a mobile browser to sign into your nivio account and…

Oh, let’s just get to the point. Yes, the Nivio concept is cool, and I hope the company succeeds. But the current execution is complicated, clunky and frustrating.

For instance, after launching nDesktop on my iMac, I launched nApps to explore what was available for rent. I was surprised to find programs like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Adobe Reader among the mix. Why would I want to “rent” free apps?

nivio napps screen shot

I also found the nApps explorer a bit confusing to navigate and accidentally closed it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to open it again, even after rebooting my iMac and starting over. So my experience with nApps was fleeting at best.

Launching the nDesktop in my iPad’s Safari browser worked. But I wasn’t able to actually do anything with the documents stored in my nDrive except open and close them. As for PocketCloud, the app requires a Gmail account in order to connect to your nDesktop. That’s fine but nivio should tell you this when you go to register for a new nivio account. Not knowing about the Gmail requirement, I had set up my account using an email account from a different service.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Nivio has the potential to be a truly useful service one day. For now, though, it may make you just a touch nSane.

UPDATE: I received the following response from nivio’s CEO in an email and wanted to share it in its entirety.

Dear James,

Thank you for the review. First and foremost, we appreciate your honest critique and will soon release an update with several improvements to the user experience. I wanted to respond with a few specifics:

1.  Apps to rent – As you noted, the terminology is a bit of a misnomer. On nivio, you don’t rent apps that are already available for free; you simply add them to your account via the nApps Store. We’ll change the terminology to avoid confusion.

2. nApps Explorer — When you minimize nApps, it sits in the Online Desktop on the bottom-right in the task bar near the clock. You can double click it there to make it come back to life.

3. Using nDesktop on your Tablet — The “Ubiquity” client is based on HTML5 and is primarily designed for viewing content on the iPad/Android. We recommend using the PocketCloud with nDesktop so you can take full advantage of its capabilities for creating, saving and synching files. Steps below:

4. PocketCloud – You don’t need a Gmail account to set up nivio with PocketCloud. Here is a quick step by step (our iOS and Android release will fix this in the coming weeks so it’s even quicker) 

1. Install PocketCloud

2. Login to from the mobile browser

3. Click Launch nDesktop and it will take you to a page with “Do you have the software to make your… into a CloudPad”

4. Click Launch nDesktop and this will launch pocket cloud.

When our upcoming apps for iOS and Android are available, you will not need to use the browser. For more detailed step-by-step instructions:

Sachin Duggal, CEO, nivio