OnLive Links iPad Users to MS Office, but With Potential Licensing Risks

Archived Published: 29 February 2012 ID: G00232622

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Consumers will take interest in OnLive's new offering for editing Microsoft documents on the iPad, but enterprise leaders must ensure that users have proper Microsoft licensing before they use it for work tasks.

News Analysis


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:

  • OnLive Desktop Plus only works when connected to the Internet, creating some utility and mobility constraints.

  • Some users don’t like using gestures and touch (on the iPad) for Windows Applications, which were designed for keystrokes and mouse input.

  • Microsoft could release an iPad version of the Office suite.

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.


Organizations should:

  • 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.

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