Software firm Parallels has launched a tool that gives iPad users access to full-blown Windows and OS X applications, such as Microsoft's Office suite, by enabling remote access to the applications running elsewhere on a PC or Mac.
Available to download now from Apple's iTunes App Store, Parallels Access enables iPad users to access desktop applications such as Microsoft Word with their tablet device as if they were local native apps, with support for gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and the ability to copy and paste between remote and local apps.
While the Parallels Access iPad app can be downloaded directly from Apple's store, it also requires a host agent to be downloaded separately and installed on each PC or Mac from which the user wishes to access their applications.
In this respect, Access is similar to other remote access services such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC, which offer iOS client apps as well as allowing users to access their computers remotely using a web browser.
However, Parallels claims that Access is different because it "applifies" the desktop applications to make the experience as close as possible to that of a native tablet app, with support for tap and swipe gestures, plus other modifications such as Windows keys on the pop-up keyboard when accessing a PC.
Unlike some other remote apps, Access presents the user with an App Launcher to directly access available applications, rather than simply presenting the Windows or Mac desktop and leaving users to find their own way around. It also offers an App Switcher to jump between multiple running apps, and a magnifying glass for when precision control is required.
Parallels decided to develop Access because it sees tablets such as the iPad as a device category that complements rather than replaces the desktop computer, John Uppendahl, director of global communications for the firm.
"Some apps are just never going to make it to the iPad – demanding apps such as AutoCAD and Revit – but with Access, we can let you use your desktop apps as if they were made for the iPad," he told V3.
As with other remote apps, Access requires you to leave your host computer running in case you need to connect up and use an application via your iPad. It is also contingent on the available network bandwidth linking the two, but Parallels claims it has optimised the app to work well even in low-bandwidth situations.
Unlike LogMeIn or GoToMyPC, which both offer a free version of their respective services offering restricted functionality, Parallels Access requires an annual subscription of $79.99 (£52) for each computer accessed.
Parallels Access runs on an iPad 2, iPad 3 or iPad Mini, while the agent requires OS X 10.7, 10.8 or 10.9 on a Mac and Windows 7 or Windows 8 on a PC.
If Mac user is running Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, then Parallels Access will make all the apps on the Windows virtual machines remotely accessible, as well as those of the host Mac.
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