Microsoft to OnLive: You Had Your Fun, Now Pay Up

March 8, 2012
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Just last week, we wrote about OnLive Desktop, the service that lets you run a full Windows 7 machine, complete with Microsoft Office, on your Android tablet or iPad. In a nutshell, OnLive Desktop works by “streaming” the Windows 7 environment to your tablet – all the software is hosted in OnLive’s cloud and you’re just accessing it from your tablet, just like you would with a Netflix movie.

The most amazing part about OnLive Desktop is the fact that you can get an almost complete Windows 7 experience and the Office productivity apps for free. The paid versions of the app give you more cloud storage space and access to a web browser, but, in order to get Win 7 and Office, plus 2GB of storage space, you don’t have to pay a dime.

Using OnLive May Get You in Trouble, Says Gartner

Now, Microsoft is making most of its money exactly from the two products that OnLive so generously gives away with its OnLive Desktop service. So naturally, news about the service raised many virtual eyebrows across the web, including a very prominent pair from market research firm Gartner.

Gartner noted that neither OnLive nor Microsoft have clarified how OnLive licenses the software that it provides to customers. Microsoft is well-known for its byzantine system of licensing, and Gartner’s analysts have speculated that OnLive Desktop is probably falling into a licensing no man’s land. The firm’s suggestion? Stay away from the service, until OnLive and MS clear it out.

onlive android

Microsoft Breaks Silence

Well, all the media attention that OnLive Desktop has been enjoying over the last weeks has finally triggered an alarm somewhere in Redmond, WA. Yesterday, one of Microsoft’s licensing head honchos has dropped the bomb on OnLive. In a blog post, MS Licensing and Pricing VP Joe Matz revealed how Microsoft is feeling about OnLive’s Robin Hood-styled acts of generosity. The skinny: you can’t do that, but we might change our mind if enough money comes our way.

To our relief (we love the idea behind OnLive Desktop), Microsoft didn’t apply the old “shoot first, ask questions later” strategy, although, apparently, it has all the rights to do so. In fact, in the wooden language typically used by Licensing and Pricing pros, Matz suggests that good ole Microsoft is willing to make things work.

Why is that? Why is Microsoft willing to essentially give away its flagship products to OnLive’s customers? Keep in mind that Windows 8 is just around the corner. Perhaps Redmond would like people to get used with using Windows on a tablet. Or, maybe Microsoft believes that, with consumers moving away from the PC, OnLive Desktop may serve as a bridgehead for accessing an entire new market.

Who knows? For now, we can only hope that OnLive manages to cajole Microsoft into accepting a licensing scheme that would keep OnLive Desktop on Android free (or at least affordable). Fingers crossed.

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