OnLive, the maker of a controversial iPad app that provides a hosted Windows 7 desktop with Office 2010 applications for free, revealed this week that it has changed the service behind this app to meet the legal requirements of Microsoft licensing. But Microsoft says it’s still not clear whether the OnLive Desktop service is legal and it will continue investigating.
Microsoft first complained about the OnLive Desktop app for iPad last month, noting that the products it was offering remotely, Windows 7 and Office 2010, were improperly licensed. The issue was that Office 2010 can only be delivered as a service if it’s hosted on Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services. So with this week’s change, the OnLive Desktop now offers Office 2010 remotely, as before, but on Windows Server 2008 R2 instead of Windows 7.
And with that, OnLive says it’s in compliance with Microsoft’s licensing rules. Microsoft, however, remains somewhat unconvinced and says it needs more proof.
“We’re pleased to have been told that the OnLive Desktop application is now accessing our software by hosting it on Windows Server, an important step in delivering any Microsoft-licensed desktop-like service to the public,” a Microsoft spokesperson told me late Monday. “Based on this information, we will work with OnLive to take a closer look at its service and ensure it is operating according to its license like thousands of other partners and utilizing our standing pricing and licensing terms.”
From a usability perspective, using Office 2010 on top of Server 2008 R2 won’t be much different from doing so on Windows 7. The two OSs, after all, are based on the same codebase and can be configured to look and work nearly identically. Virtualization expert Brian Madden, one of those who complained to Microsoft about the illegal nature of the original OnLive Desktop app, says that the move does indeed level the playing field between OnLive and others that are offering Office as a service. Madden quit Microsoft’s insular MVP program over this issue, however, noting the software giant’s lack of transparency on this issue and its “crazy policies” for remote desktop licensing.