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OnLive goes from gaming to Desktop and TV

The folks from OnLive, who we met up with last week at CES, are understandably apologetic about the fact that the iOS app for gaming hasn't yet shown up in the App Store. But though they may be sorry it hasn't appeared, OnLive's Bruce Grove is still mum on what the holdup is all about, only saying that the app is still going through Apple's "approval process." Is Apple holding the app up for breaking subscription rules, or did OnLive submit it a little late to the App Store over the holiday season? Grove doesn't budge, only saying that OnLive is currently "learning about the process a little more." At any rate, the gaming app is still due out "soon" -- whenever that may be.

But that doesn't mean OnLive isn't working; The company did introduce its OnLive Desktop app last week on schedule, and that one is available right now for free. The app provides a full touch-enabled Windows 7 installation on the iPad, and just like the gaming app, the software is streamed in via audio and video from a powerful server, and controls and touches are streamed back, basically enabling you to use and run Windows apps on a computer of almost any make or power.

As you might imagine, that has a lot of consequences for all kinds of functions and businesses. The app also will run on the Mac, which means that from anywhere, you can log into OnLive's computer, and use the basic Word, Excel, or PowerPoint installations that come with the free version. 2 GB of files are saved on a cloud folder (with more memory and a persistent desktop saved under a $9.99 a month premium subscription charge that's coming soon), so OnLive Desktop really grants anyone with a fast enough connection access to their own super-powered Windows computer.

Grove says all of the software is already covered under Microsoft's cloud access licenses, so obviously it's all legal and taken care of. And OnLive is also working with other companies, including Adobe and Autodesk, to provide even more apps to users in both the free and premium programs. Users of the premium service will also have access to a browser, and of course since it's running in a full installation of Windows, that means you'll be able to access Flash-based websites directly on the iPad through OnLive's servers.

Running Word or Excel is one thing, but remember, says Grove, that these servers are extremely powerful, so even graphically intensive apps like AutoCAD or Maya can load and run quite easily. Once the deals are all made ("Autodesk was one of our investors from the beginning," Grove reminded us), users will be able to have access to big-time software running on very powerful hardware from nearly anywhere, all at a fraction of the cost.

That's not all -- OnLive also wants to start enabling multiple users to log into the same server at the same time, so they can even share collaborative work over the OnLive network. The company is also offering the server to larger businesses on an enterprise basis, so companies could create their own desktops for OnLive to send out, with specific apps available to specific users. The possibilities are really incredible when you think about it.

OnLive's other big news from CES is that the gaming service is itself coming to smart TVs, including Google's own television service. Obviously that won't directly affect Mac users (and this is, after all, an Apple blog), but Grove says that move will raise OnLive's profile "from a brand awareness standpoint", which should grow OnLive's user base, and give the company even more leverage to provide more apps and services to users on all of its platforms. Grove says the company is planning to keep the desktop and gaming services separate -- there will be a single logon for both, but customers have "a desire to keep productivity separate from gaming," he says.

As for what's next for OnLive, the company now offers a pretty complete set of features, and once that iPad gaming app comes out, Grove says marketing the service and gaining a larger set of users will be a priority. The company is also trying to get on "as many connected devices as possible," from those smart TVs to phones like the Xperia Play and other Internet devices. The company is also selling its wireless controller, and that controller is designed to work with many of these devices directly, in the hopes of creating a unified OnLive experience from box to box.

OnLive has created some pretty incredible experiences in these two services. It's hard to believe that cloud delivery of streaming software usage like this can work so well, but it is true: Just load up the gaming app on your Mac or the desktop app on your iPad while hooked up to a solid Internet connection to see the service working in action. OnLive seems destined to become extremely popular, and once more users realize just what's available here, all of those possibilities will no doubt be realized and then some.

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