We reported last month on the legal and licensing issues surrounding OnLive and its OnLive Desktop for iPad, a freemium offering from the cloud gaming company that offered iPad users a full Windows 7 desktop experience complete with Office and the ability to watch Flash content. The company made a big entrance into the Windows/Office on iPad space in January and announced its premium and business plans the following month.
More recently, however, Microsoft announced that OnLive was violating its licensing agreements. Microsoft even went so far as to accuse OnLive and any OnLive Desktop users of illegally pirating Windows 7.
OnLive appears to have learned the error of its ways. Over the weekend, the company quietly adjusted its service to be compatible with Windows licensing.
Microsoft’s licensing arrangements for using non-PC devices to remotely connect to a Windows desktop and/or Microsoft applications are pretty complex. As we noted previously, the issue is centered around licensing for Windows 7 and not Office. Other companies, including CloudOn, also offer iPad-centric access to cloud hosted versions of Office.
The crux of the Windows desktop licensing issue is that Microsoft makes it nearly impossible for any provider to offer non-PC devices (and older PCs that can’t run Windows 7) a virtual Windows 7 desktop that’s hosted on a remote server. The easiest way around this solution is present users with a Windows Server desktop instead. Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 share much of the same code and virtually all of the key desktop and user interface features. What they don’t share is the very restrictive licensing of Windows 7.
As a result most virtual desktop (VDI) providers offer users a Windows Server desktop stripped of all the server-related tools and components.
It seems that OnLive has decided to play by those same rules. As noted by virtualization expert Brian Madden, OnLive Desktop today began using a Windows Server 2008 desktop instead, which should remove any licensing issues. Madden also notes that OnLive CEO Steve Perlman has ties to Microsoft, which may have hastened the company’s decision. The switch was also noted on the company’s fan forum site.
Overall, the shift isn’t likely to have too much impact on end users. It’s pretty unlikely that OnLive needed to change much in their cloud architecture to make the change. That means the functionality shouldn’t change. It’s also unlikely that this will derail the eventual expansion of OnLive Desktop, though it may have purchased any launch data out a little bit.