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Parallels applifies Windows, Mac with iPad access

By Leigh D. Stark | 1:44 pm 28/08/2013

Mac users have long trusted Parallels as one of the better way to run Windows on Mac and even a second installation of Mac on a Mac, but a new app from the company makes it possible to use either OS on an iPad, and the effect is fantastic.

Heading to Apple’s App Store on the iPad from today, Parallels Access for iPad is a new tool that allows anyone with an iPad and a computer with either Mac OS X or Windows to access that computer from their iPad.

More than just a simple way of remotely logging into the computer, Parallels Access takes the applications already on that computer and tries to make them compatible the gestures that the iPad uses, all the while providing an on-screen virtual trackpad in case gestures aren’t enough.

The process is described by Parallels as “applifying,” which seems to go further than just turning a webpage into an app normally called “appifying” and makes every application in an operating system technically compatible with an iPad.

“We are now in an always-on age where people are increasingly demanding access to their applications and data regardless of physical location,” said Birger Steen, CEO of Parallels.

“With Parallels Access, you can tap, swipe and pinch your way around Mac and Windows applications to ultimately be more productive at work, and lead a more connected life.”

To make Parallels Access work, you need more than just the iPad app, as a piece of software has to be installed on the computer you’d like to access, with support existing for both Mac OS and Windows at this time.

After installing it, you run the app on your iPad (supporting iPad 2 through 4, as well as the iPad Mini), and from here, a subscription is required to access the computer, with the fee charged at $79.99 annually per computer being accessed.

Applified Windows 8. As you do.

Once all of that is done, you can login, with the app turning your programs into a tiny version of of the iOS app menu. Not all your apps will be listed at first, but these are easily added by looking through your system via the app and letting Parallels Access applify them.

With that done, you can simply run the apps from your iPad, which will launch the programs both on the iPad and on the computer you’re connecting to, allowing you to control programs not made for iOS remotely.

In our testing, we found this to be compatible with pretty much anything on either platform, including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Audition, Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, and even Valve’s Steam, allowing us to load up games.

There were some catches to using them, however, and mouse movements with clicks engaged – such as when you draw in Paint by holding down the mouse button and dragging or selecting multiple characters in Age of Empires II on Steam – weren’t actually picked up by the software, making some things less than useful.

Age of Empires worked, but we couldn't click on much thanks to the way controls had been mapped.

That said, our hands-on time was spent with a pre-release app, and this could easily be fixed either now at full release or with a subsequent update. In fact, one area surprised us, and that was the expectation of slow downs, which were only present when the network itself seemed to suffer from congestion.

Overall, it’s an impressive little service, and one that actually in some ways feels like the only really good example we’ve seen for owning an iPad with a mobile access, as it essentially brings a work computer to any iPad in any place where there’s a mobile connection available.

Parallels Access is available now for the iPad on the App Store, with the required Parallels User Agent software running on Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8 (supported by 10.9 when it launches), as well as a beta version running on Windows 7 and Windows 8.

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