Parallels, the company known for its virtualization software, rolled out a new iPad app and subscription service on Tuesday called Parallels Access that promises to run both Mac and PC programs on Apple's tablet with near-native performance.
With Parallels Access, the software firm has built a completely new way to naturally interact with desktop applications on an iPad. A number of developers have fielded similar apps that promise full remote control functionality from Apple's tablet, but many resort to clunky interfaces that draw users out of the "iPad experience."
Unlike other apps, Access offers the full gamut of iPad gestures, with taps, swipes and pinches all supported by almost any desktop program. To bridge the gap between computer and tablet, the system translates mouse clicks and movement into iPad-friendly gestures.
Parallels claims its new product can handle a variety of tasks, including business programs, streaming video and even games. Internet speeds are supposedly a non-factor, though degradation may be expected when connecting over cellular networks.
The system is actually split into two parts: the iOS app and a Mac or PC client that runs on the host computer. Access authenticates via a Parallels account and links the two devices with a 256-bit AES secured SSL connection.
At the heart of Access is the App Launcher, which is basically a Springboard-like layout of compatible desktop applications. Programs can be added or deleted from this view in much the same way as iOS.
The App Switcher seamlessly moves users between programs, a necessary tool since Access only works in "full screen" mode. Parallels calls this method "applifying."
Navigating within running programs is an intuitive experience thanks to the combination of SmartTap and the iOS magnifying glass. SmartTap is a contextual cursor control that, in tandem with magnifying glass, allows users to perform advanced mouse actions like drag and drop.
One difficult maneuver that many VNC and other remote desktop apps have trouble with is scrolling. Access' gesture translation engine doesn't appear to suffer from the same problems, making in-window navigation less of a chore.
The app's keyboard is also tweaked from the standard iOS version, offering users dedicated keys for functions, arrows, and even the "Windows" button.
Those interested can try Parallels Access for free for 14 days on a Mac and 90 days on a Windows machine. Subscription pricing is set at $79.99 per year for each computer running a registered client. The iPad app and Mac or PC clients can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Parallels' webpage, respectively.