A new iPad app has reached the top of the iTunes App Store's business section. No, it's not Angry Birds; this one's a little more practical. Splashtop allows you to remotely link your PC to your iPad or smartphone, giving you the flexibility to access your data from whichever device you prefer.
Simply direct your work or home computer to Splashtop's home page, then download the free software and create an account. It works with Windows XP, 7, and Vista, or Mac OS X 10.6 or higher. Next, purchase the app from your iPad, iPhone, or Android handset. Once downloaded, Splashtop will automatically search for devices running its software on your network. Find yours, enter your password, and you're ready to go.
As of this writing, the app costs only $1.99 to download. By contrast, remote desktop tool Wyse PocketCloud Pro is $15. and LogMeIn Ignition costs $30. Undoubtedly, the low price has helped Splashtop secure the top spot in the Apple App Store. (Apple's iTunes rankings are based off of units downloaded, not gross sales. So it's in the interest of developers to keep their prices low to increase individual sales and hopefully get featured.)
Splashtop isn't the first computer-linking app available. But while its competitors allow you to share and transfer files between computers, Splashtop gives you the option of streaming video from your computer to your iPad or smartphone, including DVD movies, video files, or from online streaming services. It also gives you the option of streaming audio files, including MP3, WMA, and AAC formats.
One annoyance is that the app works best when synced with a computer running on the same Wi-Fi network--that is, within the same office or house. If you want to jump networks and access your work computer from home, for example, you'll have to do it through a feature that Splashtop still refers to as "experimental." This requires a Google Gmail login, and is currently only available for PCs. Given their recent success, however, chances are this functionality will be rolled out for Macs in the near future.
Splashtop does have a built-in keypad that mimics the buttons on your PC, and has also built out its own library of finger gestures to help you control your PC remotely. Still, accessing your PC on your smartphone may become tedious as you try to zoom way in and way out to navigate your PC. Overall, though, the app looks like a compelling solution for those wanting to get their devices synced.
Ilie Mitaru is a culture and business journalist and an occasional entrepreneur. He is the founder of an alternative business magazine, Stake, that is about to launch.