You might be familiar with the idea of remote desktop computing apps like LogMeIn Ignition and Splashtop Remote Desktop that enable you to remotely access a personal computer from a smartphone or tablet. Once you access the computer you can then run any desktop app like Tweetdeck, Microsoft Word, or Internet Explorer. Many people use remote desktop apps to access their home or office computers while they are traveling, but the problem is that these apps require you to keep the computer you plan to access always running. AlwaysOnPC fixes the problem by hosting a Linux Desktop on their servers, which you can access via an Internet connection using an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.
AlwaysOnPC combines an Internet-based virtual desktop service with a smartphone or tablet app that you buy from the Android Market or iTunes App store. Virtual desktop technology provides access to a full PC image that runs on a server, which you access using a viewer app. For example, you can access Windows 7 desktops using the free Citrix Receiver iPad app.
Smartphone and tablet virtual desktop apps have been available for some time, the problem is finding a service that hosts the PC images for a reasonable price. Because virtual desktop computing has been targeted at corporations and small businesses, companies offerring this service usually charge high monthly fees. Last year I tried a service hosted by Nasstar that charged nearly $80 per month. AlwaysOnPC does not charge a monthly fee, but you do end up paying up to $24.99 for their iPad app.
I purchased the Android app that costs $19.99 and installed it on my HTC Flyer. What you get is a Gnome desktop with the full suite of OpenOffice apps, Firefox, Google Chrome, Dropbox, Gimp, and FileZilla. AlwaysOnPC does not appear to provide a way to install other apps to your desktop, though it does provide a terminal from which you might be able to install apps. By providing Dropbox, AlwaysOnPC makes it easy to share files that you can edit on multiple computers, and OpenOffice does a good job of editing Microsoft Office documents. I found performance on the HTC Flyer over WiFi to be very good, and I am able to type without any annoying lags.
While AlwaysOnPC is not providing a Microsoft Windows desktop, it does provide a useful set of desktop applications and it doesn’t require that you keep a home PC running. In comparison with most smartphone and tablet apps the $19.99/$24.99 price might seem high, but it is cheaper than LogMeIn Ignition, which costs $29.99, and you get 2 GB of file storage. For me, it’s worth gaining the ability to fully edit Google Documents, particularly spreadsheets, on my HTC Flyer.