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Microsoft Drops the Hammer on OnLive's iPad Offering

Enjoy Office on the iPad while it lasts, because it may not last long.

By Andy Patrizio on Thu, 03/08/12 - 4:57pm.

Last month, the cloud gaming company OnLive announced a service for $5 a month that would provide a Windows 7 desktop with major Microsoft Office applications like Word and Excel, plus Internet Explorer with Adobe flash support for iPad and Android tablet users.

So you knew that was too good to last.

After a few weeks of curious silence, Microsoft finally made a comment, and it's not good news for OnLive. The company believes OnLive is in violation of Microsoft licensing terms.

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It seems a research note from Gartner challenging the legality of the offering, along with reporter queries, finally pushed Microsoft to say something. "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," Joe Matz, corporate vice president of worldwide licensing and pricing at Microsoft, wrote in a March 8 blog post.

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Gartner was fairly conservative in its assessment of the OnLive service. The iPad is finding its way into more and more businesses through official programs and people just bringing their tablet to work. Gartner urged caution.

"Meet with your Microsoft account team and review whatever written guidance they will provide on licensing issues. Evaluate the data security environment provided by OnLive and involve your chief information security officer in evaluating suitability and risks. Recognize that some of your employees may use OnLive. Prepare to educate them on the licensing issues and risks if you do not have clear answers from Microsoft on licensing liabilities and limits," the Gartner analysts wrote.

Matz pointed out in his blog that anyone who wished to host Windows 7 in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solution must provide their partner (or, in this case, customer) with licenses through the customer’s own agreements with Microsoft. Clearly, that is not happening with people buying the OnLive service.

He also pointed out that 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. However, the 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.

I knew it was too good to last. I just wonder what took Microsoft so long. Walter Mossberg was writing about this in mid-January. It was no secret this service was coming.