On 22 February 2012, OnLive announced the release of a new consumer version of OnLive Desktop, a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) offering. For $4.99 per user per month, OnLive Desktop Plus gives users access to a virtual Windows desktop running Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer (IE) 9 with Flash and PDF support.
OnLive’s offering will likely be very appealing to consumers who want to replicate Microsoft Office’s editing capabilities on their iPads. To date, Microsoft has only released versions of OneNote and Lync for the iPad, and nothing in the iPad App Store (such as Documents to Go, Quickoffice and iWork) offers full capabilities or perfect fidelity with Office.
OnLive’s Desktop Plus, its other offerings (including a free version and a Pro version with more storage) and similar offerings from other vendors (such as CloudOn) come close to providing the full Office experience on the iPad. The compatibility and capabilities match the Windows desktop components because they are real Microsoft products running in a Windows virtual machine in the cloud. However, there are some drawbacks for end users:
Organizations and end users should note that OnLive Desktop Plus may present Microsoft licensing risks for organizations if consumers install the product on company iPads or use it to edit company documents from personal devices. Neither Microsoft nor OnLive has provided clear guidance on how users of these DaaS products must comply with Microsoft licensing requirements.
Using a Windows desktop through hosted virtual desktop (HVD) requires careful licensing that often includes additional products, fees or Software Assurance. Further, Microsoft often requires service providers to license products they provide through a Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) with monthly payments for devices running the software. OnLive has not disclosed to us how it is complying with Microsoft licensing, and Microsoft has thus far declined to comment on the matter. In Gartner's view, if Microsoft were to conclude that OnLive is misusing its products, Microsoft could potentially take action against OnLive that could affect OnLive's ability to service clients. Gartner believes that there's also a risk that Microsoft could hold both OnLive and its customers responsible for any potential mislicensing.
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