Parallels yesterday unveiled what it calls a breakthrough product that "'applifies' Windows and Mac applications, letting customers remotely access and experience them as if they were made for iPad."
It sounds great until you actually try to use it. Even worse, the new product is absurdly expensive compared to Parallels' other software and its older, cheaper app that did much the same thing until it was killed.
The company used to offer Parallels Mobile for the iPad for a flat fee of $19.99, but it's no longer available to buy. Parallels Mobile, which you can still use if you already bought it and have it installed, lets you access the Parallels virtual machines on your Mac over the Internet.
The new Parallels Access software does basically the same thing, except it allows you to open and view applications individually rather than trying to manipulate the whole virtual machine on an iPad screen. That's a nice improvement, but not one that's worth the price premium. At $79.99 per year, Parallels Access costs the same each year as Parallels Desktop costs for a perpetual license. And you need both to access Parallels virtual machines from the iPad.
Since Parallels Access is primarily an accessory to the base virtualization platform, it's ridiculous to make it cost the same (or more if you don't upgrade Parallels Desktop each year). As if it couldn't get any more ridiculous, each computer you access through the app requires its own $79.99 yearly subscription. Parallels Access without Parallels Desktop will get you remote access to a host computer without any virtual machines, but at that point you might as well just go for a free alternative that works slightly less smoothly instead of paying $79.99 a year.
Maybe the price would be acceptable if Parallels Access actually delivered on its claim of making Windows and Mac applications feel like native iPad applications. The reality is that no remote access program makes Windows feel native on the iPad. Tools like LogMeIn or PocketCloud are convenient in a pinch, but they're not actually pleasant to use since you're generally interacting with tiny controls made for mice and keyboards. Parallels added some new touch-friendly gestures, like a double tap to replace the mouse right click, scrolling, selecting text, and copy and paste. But it certainly doesn't make desktop applications feel like they were built for the iPad. The biggest differentiation for Parallels Access compared to other iPad-based remote access tools is integration with virtual machines, which already existed in the discontinued and cheaper Parallels Mobile.
We're guessing Android users will get to join in on the awkwardness at some point, because Parallels said that "Support of devices in addition to the iPad is in development." Using Parallels Access requires an agent to be installed on the computer you're accessing. There is an agent for both Apple and Windows computers, but the Windows tool is still in beta.