Nivio: The PC, in the Cloud

Web apps may be getting more popular, but that doesn’t mean they’ve fully replaced traditional apps for most of us, at least not yet. Unfortunately, the same is true for those of use that use Macs, Linux machines, or tablets: for the most part, they won’t run traditional Windows apps we’re often required to use for work, education, and more. Even on Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablets, you’ll have to leave your old PC app behind on the ARM based variants.

Seems like the cloud should have some solution for this problem. That’s where the new Nivio service comes in. It lets you run the Windows 7 desktop right in your browser, add new desktop programs to your cloud-based Windows in seconds, and access all of your files from nDrive, whether you’re using Windows online or just need to grab a file. It turns the whole PC experience into a web app, and I love it! Read on to find out why!

Understanding Nivio

Nivio might initially seem confusing, with its site advertising three separate services: nDesktop, nDrive, and nApps. In reality, they all work together, so it’s better to think of them as one. nDrive lets you store files to use in nDesktop, a hosted Windows desktop that can also run apps from Nivio’s app store, called nApps. Most important is nDesktop, which is a cloud-based Windows Server 2008 desktop that works essentially the same as Windows 7, except it’s running directly in your browser. You can login and work in Windows on any browser, anytime, using the apps you’ve installed in it from nApps and the files you’ve saved in nDrive.

The nDrive is nivio’s online storage and synchronization app, and it’s the first thing you see when you get started. It enables you to sync all your data to all of your devices, simultaneously. When you make a change in one place, on any of your devices, the change replicates to all of your devices seamlessly. On its own, it might be a Dropbox or Google Drive competitor, but it’s mainly a convenient way to get files ready for use in your cloud-based PC.

With that, it ends up being one of the best ways to save files online and open them in your browser, since you can open any file you’ve saved in nDrive in a PC-based app in your nDesktop. Best of all, with nDrive’s Google Drive integration, you can open any file you’ve saved in Google Drive right in a PC app in your Nivio nDesktop. Talk about online productivity!

nDrive’s Interface, reminiscent of Dropbox

The Nivio Desktop

The desktop is where the action really happens. As mentioned before, Nivio gives you the full Windows 7 desktop experience right in your browser, aside from a few of the graphical features you’d expect from a modern desktop. You can run Internet Explorer, browse files in Explorer, or even hit Ctrl+alt+delete in the cloud. You can copy and paste text and more from your native OS with the the clipboard icon in the top corner, and you can more apps around inside your browser-based desktop just as you’d expect. You’ll need to use nDrive to move files back and forth between your main computer and your nDesktop, but you could also download files to it from the browser. All in all, it’s Windows, right in your browser, or in Nivio’s dedicated native apps if you’d prefer.

Downloading nApps in Windows in your browser

The best feature, perhaps, is nApps, an app store for your Nivio Windows desktop. Being able to download some of your favourite programs with the touch of a button was quick and easy. You can quickly install free apps like Google Chrome, Evernote and Microsoft Office to your desktop, and the speed in which these are added and ready for use is highly impressive. There’s no slow installation, just a couple click and the app’s ready for you to use. This takes Nivio far beyond most remote OS systems, and make it a snap to use any Windows program you need, anytime.

However, one negative is that the amount of apps isn’t massive. In the future I would like to see this store expanded to provide the user with a bigger choice. Whereas at the moment you’re limited to around 300 apps, a greater amount would be a significant improvement. The apps available are mostly free, although, you can pay a subscription fee for individual Microsoft Office apps, and more professional apps including Adobe apps are slated to be added in the future. Best of all, you could, say, just pay for Microsoft Project for one month while you’re using it with your team, and then not keep paying for it once you don’t need it any longer.


One thing you’ll notice is that the initial loading speed can be slow. Taking a few minutes for the process to complete can be quite annoying. However, in comparison to a normal Windows start up this is fairly normal, but you would normally expect a quicker service from a web app. Perhaps we’ve all been spoiled by near-instantanous web app launches.

That said, if you’ve ever used remote desktop with Windows, you’ll likely be amazed at how fast Nivio actually runs. The Nivio team has done some great work in speeding up Windows in your browser, and the efforts show. It’s really a rather nice way to use Windows programs from the browser, and isn’t nearly as slow as you might expect for something this intensive.

Running apps inside nDesktop

Unfortunately, the aesthetics of the app aren’t that appealing. You’ve basically got a Windows 7 desktop running in the Classic graphics mode, and even then, the graphics aren’t as good as you would have expected even on an older PC. That’s due to Nivio needing to stream all of the graphics from the remote desktop to your computer, and with that, it’s actually impressive it works as good as it does.

Nivio comes in six different price packages, so you can choose the right package to fit your needs. You can use Nivio for free right now for a limited time, can get 10Gb of file storage for free, and can then try out individual paid apps for 30 days for free. After that, you can upgrade starting at $2-$5 for 10 hours of Windows usage a month, depending on your needs and what you’ll be using Nivio for.

Nivio, everywhere you work

More than just being another way to use Windows app, Nivio is one of the best ways to use Windows apps anywhere. After using it in the browser and with Nivio’s native app on my desktop, I decided to have a go on my Tablet. To do that, download Wyse PocketCloud, sign in with your Nivio credentials, and you’re are ready to go. The dedicated app does provide an easier way to use Nivio from a tablet, but it’s not 100% necessary to use it. It does, however, let

The really great thing is that Nivio works great in any browser, so I could use Windows directly from Firefox and Opera on my tablet, which was awesome. With just that one account, I can work on anyone’s device with an internet connection and access all of my Windows apps and files, without having to install any special apps or anything. The specialized apps are nice, but that’s even more impressive.

Wrapping up

All in all, I am very impressed with Nivio. It’s taken the traditional Windows desktop, made it work anywhere you can run HTML5, and turned the traditional PC app model on its head, all at the same time. It’s hard not to be impressed with that!

If you’ve found you can’t ditch some PC apps, and need to access them from non-Windows devices, Nivio just might be what you’ve been looking for. Be sure to give it a try, and we’d love to hear your thoughts about the service in the comments below!


Windows and your files, in the cloud. It just might be the killer app if you've switched to a Chromebook, tablet, or even a Mac.