(Credit: Microsoft)

While the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week is considered the Super Bowl of gadgets and tech, not every product presentation will be a glitzy and celebrity-packed affair. In the case of Windows Virtual Desktop for the iPad, our demo comes in the form of a 90-second YouTube clip, and it's arguably more informative.

Microsoft group manager Scott Manchester trained his camera on a regular iPad, propped up by a keyboard case and already running a remote desktop session of Windows 10. Of course, the company has been working on this project for some time, so it's not a total surprise to see it up and running. But Windows Virtual Desktop for iOS appears to be shaping up nicely.

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As mentioned in the Twitter description, mouse support is new in this version of WVD, which Manchester demonstrated working over Bluetooth. The keyboard case also talks to the iPad via Bluetooth. Neither gadget has to come directly from Apple, so you can save a chunk of money that way, and Bluetooth mice can also be very compact, making the whole package easier to travel with.

For those of you not familiar with remote desktops, these connect you to an operating system that's running on another computer -- like loading Windows instead of a web page in your browser. Windows Virtual Desktop can also run full-screen, with iOS notifications being the only visual clue that Windows is not running on the device itself.

A remote desktop system offers at least two big advantages. One, it can make tech support a lot easier, since a technician can access the device directly, instead of giving instructions to a user and hoping that they're followed correctly.

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Two, it can allow a business to use low-power, low-cost computers and let the remote server do the heavy lifting. If you use Google Docs on a phone or tablet, you're already most of the way there; Google stores and organizes your documents, enables real-time collaboration with other users and tracks changes for you.

Windows Virtual Desktop extends this theme to an entire operating system, which is more ambitious but makes it possible to use apps that are not native to the device that you're using to connect. It's also a way to use Windows without being directly exposed to viruses and other malware.

For now, mouse support in the iPad version of Windows Virtual Desktop is still in the "Coming Soon" column. But its presence in an informal demo indicates that we may not actually need to wait much longer.


  • A Microsoft employee demoed Windows Virtual Desktop running on an iPad with Bluetooth mouse and keyboard support, allowing you to use the tablet as though it were a Windows PC.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop allows you to log into a version of the operating system that's running on another computer, kind of like loading a website in your browser, but more complex.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.