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  (Source: Matt Groening/20th Century Fox)
Paid version may survive, but will likely see licensing-induced price bump

Imagine if you could enjoy Adobe Systems Inc.'s (ADBE) forbidden Flash and PDFs on your iPad.  Now imagine if your device from Apple, Inc. (AAPL) could also use Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Office (MSO) suite of productivity apps.

This dream is reality, thanks to OnLive, an enterprising startup who created an iPad app that leverages remote virtualization to deliver the missing functionality over high-speed gigabit internet connections.  OnLive's free service launched in January, offering users free Office access.  

In February it added the "Desktop Plus" service.  Priced at $4.99/month, the upgrade ditched ads and eliminated annoying waits to get access to the remote Windows 7 desktop.  And it added Adobe PDF reading and Flash compatibility, plus 2 GB of storage.


But OnLive's remote Windows 7 virtualization solution may be in jeopardy.  In a blog posted on March 8 Microsoft worlwide licensing VP, Joe Matz, writes:

Microsoft partners who host under the Services Provider License Agreement ("SPLA") may bring some desktop-like functionality as a service by using Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services.  Under this solution, the partner is free to offer this service to any customer they choose, whether or not they have a direct licensing agreement with Microsoft. However, it is important to note that SPLA does not support delivery of Windows 7 as a hosted client or provide the ability to access Office as a service through Windows 7.  Office may only be provided as a service if it is hosted on Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services.

He then specifically addresses the elephant in the room -- OnLive's Desktop app.  Writes Mr. Matz:

Some inquiries about these scenarios have been raised as a result of recent media coverage related to OnLive’s Desktop and Desktop Plus services. Additionally, the analyst firm Gartner raised questions regarding the compliance of these services last week. We are actively engaged with OnLive with the hope of bringing them into a properly licensed scenario, and we are committed to seeing this issue is resolved.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean game over for the promising service.  Unlike Apple who tries to ban disruptive companies, Microsoft tends to try to bring them into the licensing fold.  However, it sounds like OnLive will need to buy a whole license per user to avoid litigation regarding its remote hosting scheme.  

iPad OneLive

That means that while the service may survive, the free version is almost certainly dead, except perhaps on a trial-driven basis.  And likely any paid version will be much more expensive than it currently is.

There have been many rumors that Microsoft is preparing its own direct port of Office to the iPad and Android.  However, Apple's iPad 3 launch came and went without any announcement from Microsoft.  Microsoft did recently launch a OneNote app for Android and iOS.  However, it is uncertain whether or not the rumored iOS Office Suite will come to be, given that it could remove one of the biggest selling points of Microsoft's coming Windows 8 tablets.

[Images of app courtesy of OneLive]

Sources: TechNet, OneLive



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Meh @ Microsoft
By SongEmu on 3/11/2012 1:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
Not to get into the right or wrongs of OnLive's arrangement, how is what they're doing any different than loaning out time on a legitimate windows platform? Isn't that what all hotels do when they put out a public "free internet" computer in the lobby? One license, multiple users, hotel still owns computer.




RE: Meh @ Microsoft
By Solandri on 3/11/2012 7:51:02 PM , Rating: 2
It's a long-standing ambiguity in software licensing which is rarely ever cleared up. Is the license per computer? Or is it per user? Sometimes a company makes it explicit (Adobe lets you install Photoshop on both your desktop and laptop, they only stipulate that it not be run on both simultaneously). But more often than not, the company exploits the ambiguity and tries to make sure the answer is "which ever one makes us the most money."

In the hotel case, the license is for the computer. I'd agree with you that OnLive's arrangement makes sense if the number of users they have doesn't exceed the number of licenses they have. But traditionally in a business environment, Microsoft has enforced one license per seat, not one license for every instance in use at any given time. The best example is their licensing for Terminal Services (basically, remote logins into VMs running Windows). If you have 100 employees but only 10 will need to connect to it at a time, you can't get away with 10 licenses. They will still require you to get 100 licenses (one per user's computer).

For home use though, you don't need to use OnLive. Use your tablet to Remote Desktop or VNC into a PC or VM with a copy of Office installed. Several of my clients are doing just that to run proprietary PC business apps from their tablets.


RE: Meh @ Microsoft
By MGSsancho on 3/12/2012 3:18:57 AM , Rating: 5
https://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensin...

Microsoft has solved any multi-license issues over a decade ago. OnLive simply either did not think they needed one or failed to call up Microsoft to clear things out before launching. Either way it is all fixed now.


RE: Meh @ Microsoft
By chripuck on 3/12/2012 11:18:50 AM , Rating: 2
Splashtop HD, $5, problem solved.


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