Parallels Access turns your iPad into a porthole to your more powerful (and heavier) Windows or Mac computers somewhere else. Connecting the computers is the easy part. The real magic is how Parallels Access shrinks your desktop applications into manageable tablet apps.
Remotely accessing a computer from an iPad isn't a remotely new concept, but Parallels Access is pretty darn slick. So slick as to make you think it's been desperately missing all along. The challenge in making this type of software is compressing the functionality of a desktop application—with all that mousey luxury—into a touch interface for your not-so-nimble fingers. I've had a chance to play with Parallels Access, and it's very impressively conceived and designed software. Whether it'll get ordinary people to jump on board is another question altogether.
Parallels Access is a subscription service that links your computer to your iPad. As long as both ends are connected to the Internet, you should be able to connect.
Once connected, your computer desktop will look like a mobile OS home screen. Here's what it looks like for a Mac desktop:
Here's what it looks like for Windows:
No weird resizing issues. No trying to smash a traditional desktop look onto your iPad. In fact, there's no weirdness period, and that's the key. This looks like a mobile OS—even though the mobile OS on the other end looks completely different.
Parallels succeeds at usability, which is where remote desktop software fails. While other products will handily connect you to other computers and let you access them from your computer, Parallels does a very nice job of making desktop applications behave like iOS apps. Besides retaining certain native iOS conventions like copy/ paste, and swipe to scroll, it's also added a few new features like a tap-and-hold magnifying glass help you squeeze more functionality out of your clumsy fingers.
The feature set is pretty deep, but without going into tedious detail, suffice it to say that Parallels Access feels the way the experience of remotely accessing a computer should. It's not a frustrating solution that you only use because you're in a tough spot and you don't have any other choice. Just the opposite: it's smooth and intuitive enough that you might consider adopting it as a regular part of your routine.
It's worth noting that we've only really seen Parallels Access working with basic text editing, which is, you know, basic. We're curious to see what happens when you start crunching heavier software.
Parallels Access runs on iPad 2 or later, and it can connect to computers running OS X 1.7+ or Windows 7+ via access agent software. It costs £65 per year per computer, which is considerably more expensive than the simple, cheap alternatives like Splashtop 2, which costs around £15 per year. Although, the better comparisons are more fully featured competitors like GoToMyPC (£6/month) PocketCloud Pro (£10.49+subscription charges). Indeed, Parallels isn't the first to give remote desktop access from your iPad a try, but on our limited use, we've got the feeling that it might be first to get it right.