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Microsoft's new iOS and Android Remote Desktop apps let you control a PC from a phone

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Remote Desktop app iOS
Remote Desktop app iOS

Microsoft is providing a new way for iOS and Android users to access their Windows PCs today. A new Remote Desktop app is now available for both operating systems, letting you simply connect to a Windows PC and control it. While a number of third-party solutions have existed previously, including Citrix and others, Microsoft's native support is the latest in its continued push to provide apps across Windows, Android, and iOS.

Remote Desktop, as the name implies, uses the same Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) that Microsoft has used for years across its Windows desktop and server releases to connect to a PC. The app will support all Windows PCs that have Remote Desktop turned on, an optional that's configurable in Control Panel.

The Windows desktop in your hands

On the iPhone and Android version (for phones) it's a little tricky to navigate the desktop on such a small screen, but Microsoft's Windows 8-style interface works a lot better. The iOS and Android versions also support iPads and Android tablets, and it's a lot more useful controlling a PC from an tablet. Unfortunately, the app doesn't auto detect PCs on a network so you'll have to know the IP of the machine you want to connect to. That's fairly standard for Remote Desktop, and Microsoft has built in options to scroll around a machine at its native resolution as well as an onscreen keyboard with buttons to trigger function, shift, ctrl, alt, esc, tab, and even the Windows key.

While these apps are mainly designed for business users who want to quickly remote back to their PC, they'll come in useful for enthusiasts who want to access Windows PCs natively on the go. Microsoft has built a Windows 8-style Remote Desktop app, but the company has not yet provided its own Windows Phone version. The Android Remote Desktop app is available in the Google Play store, and the iOS version is available in Apple's App Store. Both are available for free.