Microsoft in dispute with OnLive over Windows desktop-on-iPad licensing

Microsoft in dispute with OnLive over Windows desktop-on-iPad licensing

Summary: Microsoft finally is going public about OnLive, the company offering hosted Office and Windows on iPads and Android tablets and whether it is in violation of Microsoft's virtualization licensing terms.


Now we know why Microsoft officials refused to discuss whether OnLive -- the company offering iPad and Android tablet users a hosted Windows desktop app -- was in violation of Microsoft licensing terms.

It seems Microsoft believes they are.

"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," said Joe Matz, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Licensing and Pricing at Microsoft, in a March 8 blog post.

From today's post, it seems it took a note from Gartner regarding licensing of OnLive Desktop for Microsoft to finally go public on the question of whether or not what OnLive is doing is legal.

OnLive offers an app called OnLive Desktop, which allows iPad and Android tablet users to run full Office and Windows 7 on their tablets, even if they haven't purchased either product.

In today's post, Microsoft's Matz noted that Microsoft's licensing agreements allow the following:

"* Customers that want to work with partners to have them host Windows 7 in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solution on their behalf, can do so when the customer provides the partner licenses through the customer’s own agreements with Microsoft. The hosting hardware must be dedicated to, and for the benefit of the customer, and may not be shared by or with any other customers of that partner.

"* 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. Under this solution, the partner is free to offer this service to any customer they choose, whether or not they have a direct licensing agreement with Microsoft. However, it is important to note that 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.  Office may only be provided as a service if it is hosted on Windows Server and Remote Desktop Services."

Virtualization expert Brian Madden recently questioned via his blog why Microsoft wouldn't disclose how OnLive was legally able to provide hosted Windows, given Microsoft's licensing terms and conditions. In a March 1 post, Madden said:

"For those who haven't seen it, OnLive offers a full remote Windows 7 VDI desktop direct to end user consumers, and the users don't have to buy VDA licenses. Based on everything we know about Microsoft licensing, this should be in clear violation of Microsoft's policies. (And many of the other DaaS (Desktop as a Service) providers are crying foul, noting that it's hard for them to compete against a company who apparently doesn't have to license Microsoft products like the rest of the world does.)"

I've put an inquiry in with OnLive for their side of the story. If and when they respond, I will update this post.

Update: An OnLive spokesperson said via an e-mail: "We have never commented on any licensing agreements," which I'm assuming is a no comment.

Topics: Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Exit OnLive

    It was already sounding to good to be true.
    Not worth an account now with this issue hanging over the business
  • was just wondering about this

    I was just asking myself this same question a couple days ago and searching around for info about how licensing worked and couldn't find any answer. I originally assumed you had to purchase a copy of windows, like you do with the games. Either way, I decided there was no point to it, other than a desire to test the coolness factor. I'd never end up using it.
  • that's greed that comes close to monopolistic behavior

    M$ is always trying to kill its 'partners' that work with the competition.
    The Linux Geek
    • Um, no

      No, Microsoft is protecting its partners that abide by the licensing terms. If you have 10 partners, 9 of which abide by your terms and 1 does not thereby getting a competitive advantage, it's in everyone's interest to get that one partner in line.
      • M$ makes up the terms

        to rob people and double charge them.
        The Linux Geek
    • other partners have to pay...

      Just like OnLive should be. As far as VDI goes, OnLive appears to be out of compliance. Yeah, it was too good to be true.
      • software should be free or paid only once

        OnLive was exercising their license rights!
        The Linux Geek
      • @The Linux Geek

        You're right. And no one should have jobs. I think there should be ONE copy of Windows and that person should just share it with the entire world. I think Mechanics should put crap in my car for free. I think actors should act for the thrill of doing so. I think musicians, athletes, and salesmen should grow their own crops under their bridges they live under.

        I think whatever it is you do should be done pro bono (or do you just collect social security checks while whining about other people actually earning a living?).

        Or... Is it that everyone in the world BUT you should work for free? If so, can I have your job, and you can trade with my designation you assigned me?
      • Not a bad idea

        [i]I think there should be ONE copy of Windows and that person should just share it with the entire world.[/i]

        Now you're catching on, fanboy.

        Only for you, of course. ;)
    • What a twit

      Jeff Richardson
    • Please change your name...

      you make all Linux geeks look bad, worldwide. No one on this planet agrees with your garbage opinions.
    • Not sure that's true.

      Microsoft has MANY partners, some of which it competes with (e.g. Intel for dev tools), Oracle (for DB's & ERP software) and yet I see most of these partners still alive & kicking and in many cases, doing very nicely.

      However, there's no reason why MS shouldn't compete in markets where it can provide a strategic or economically interesting product or solution. Just as Oracle competed with Sun (prior to bailing McNealy & Co out by buying Sun before it inevitibly imploded).

      It's called business.
    • Not so fast Linux Geek

      As a fellow Linux geek I hope MS stomps OnLive in the ground over this. Why would we want people using this as a crutch as it will just stunt development of equivalent apps to whatever is in this virtual machine that run natively on the Android platform. I'd much rather see people on iPads and Android tablets clamor for native functionality than make do with a kludge like remote desktop.
      Nathan A Smith
      • There is already a lot of ipad consumer clammoring for MS to bring out a

        native ipad version of office. And there is some speculation that office 15 will do that.
        Johnny Vegas
      • MS Development tool expertise

        would be nice replacement for native tools on iOS and Android. Objective-C is horrible.
  • What took them so long?

    I was wondering how long it would take for Microsoft to pounce. I just couldn't see any scenario under wich they would allow something like this to happen.
  • Based on the definition above, we can't use Citrix either...

    Interesting times...
    • Citrix...

      is one of their valid partners. On-Live is stealing and making a profit.
    • RE: We Can't Use Citrix

      No, the difference is with Citrix and other Virtual Desktop Solutions the user or organization has a valid license. OnLive is setting up computers in the cloud that the people accessing them do not own or have a legal right to use. If you use Citrix you are connecting to physical desktop that you or your organization owns and not some random cloud computer.
      • Private Cloud

        That's right. There's nothing wrong with offering virtual desktop solution if it's properly licensed. Citrix however is very expensive, I find that ThinServer XP solution does the job quite well at a fraction of the cost