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Is Onlive Pirating Windows and Will It Cost Them? 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-better-to-beg-for-forgiveness-than-to-ask-for-permission dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When Onlive, the network gaming company, started offering not just Microsoft Windows but Microsoft Office for free on the iPad, and now on Android, it certainly seemed too good to be true. Speculation abounded on what type of license they could be using to accomplish this magical feat. From sifting through Microsoft's licenses and speaking with sources very familiar with them, the ugly truth may be that they can't."
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Is Onlive Pirating Windows and Will It Cost Them?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:07PM (#39297001)

    Is it their fault that Microsoft didn't think they were literal when they wrote the planet Earth in as their location?

    • by javascriptjunkie (2591449) on Friday March 09, 2012 @12:57AM (#39297603)
      No, but there's no actual proof that onlive has done anything wrong. The terms are not public. When did we start accepting rampant speculation as journalism?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @01:00AM (#39297615)

        I can see by your UID that you're new around here but, for fucks sake, don't come off like that much of a chump at the same time too. At any given time about half the articles on Slashdot are based on speculation.

        • by Trahloc (842734) on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:29AM (#39298281) Homepage
          Considering there is gross negligence in the article I don't think he's wrong to be a 'chump' as you put it. As an SPLA provider I can confirm there IS a win7 license available under SPLA. The article the person points to glosses over the licenses existence because he can't get an answer from microsoft on how to use it. So he gets a shitty rep and suddenly the license ceases to exist. So yeah, this article is full of bullshit and never should have made it to the front page. Sending emails isn't going to get you through the bureaucracy that is Microsoft, you pickup the damn phone and talk to your SPLA rep and request one of the license guys like I have in the past when trying to clarify MS's lame ass licenses. Being unwilling to do the legwork to get the facts doesn't give you the right to pull shit out of your ass and claim its reality.
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:22AM (#39298249) Journal
        Uhhh...if Microsoft says "We don't actually sell a license that allows what they are doing" then what else is there really to say? i mean i can buy a VLK of Windows but that doesn't give me the right to set up a "free Windows for everyone LOL!" website and pass that VLK key to anybody and everybody. Every single license, yes even GPL, has rules and limitations and if the guys whose license it is says "You can't do that" well then most likely you can't.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        when you started reading slashdot.

  • by jesseck (942036) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:11PM (#39297035)
    They are probably using the SPLA for this. That allows you to license software for your service on a monthly basis.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is no SPLA for Windows 7.

      • by satchelmouth (1658393) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:22PM (#39297099)
        Windows 2008 Remote Desktop Services with Remote Desktop Experience pack (which gives you essentially a complete Win7 experience) is how you do it under SPLA. That would be legal under SPLA.
        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:32PM (#39297183) Journal
          That's what is so weird:

          MS will let you farm out 2k8 RDS sessions, with essentially all the trimmings that Win7 would be capable of over RDP, for the right money; but they simply Will Not Sell an SPLA to perform the (with contemporary virtualization and deduplicated storage backends) virtually identical act of farming out Win7 VMs.

          I honestly find it rather puzzling. If they didn't offer 'desktopish' SPLAs at all, that'd be unpleasant of them; but would be a coherent 'no way are we letting thin clients take over' strategy. If they followed a 'we don't care how you do it, we just want to get paid per month, per seat' approach, that'd be similarly coherent.

          As it is, though, there just doesn't seem to be a coherent logic behind the licensing terms.
          • by jesseck (942036) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:48PM (#39297281)
            Another fucked up thing is Microsoft's own SPLA reps don't understand all the licensing details,leaving you guessing until their lawyers see what is happening. The best you can do is pretend you're under tje most draconian set of rules, which inhibits growth.
            • by lennier1 (264730)

              That's a common problem. Ask three of their sales reps for details on the licensing required for a certain situation and you'll get three completely different proposals.

        • by howardd21 (1001567) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:43PM (#39297253) Homepage
          I am with a Microsoft Gold Partner, and we host and use the SPLA. The fact is that they would need to use these licenses at a minimum:
          * Remote Desktop SAL (6WC-00002) @ 3.45 a month
          * Office Standard (021-08183) @ $10.30 a month


          That is $13.75 a month per user they need to pay Microsoft + all the other costs for hardware, support, etc.
      • by jesseck (942036)
        Then why is it on the price list and the vlsc? MS may not support spla for vdi , but it is an option.
    • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday March 09, 2012 @02:52AM (#39298147) Journal

      Speculating about the terms is useless. There is no requirement that this customer uses a standard license or terms. Like Nokia they may have a special deal where Microsoft pays THEM per activated user, and now Microsoft is saying "er, wait. This isn't going how we thought so let's draw your attention to Paragraph 752, subparagraph 17 which reads 'offer void under the following conditions' and under codicil 3 of the 4th amendment was added the text 'if we say so'." We don't, and won't know the terms so there's no point in talking about it.

      OnLive should have known better. Nothing good comes of bargaining with the devil.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:51AM (#39298385)

        Like Nokia they may have a special deal where Microsoft pays THEM per activated user

        Funny story about that.

        I recently bought a cheap Android China phone, supposedly based on the a MediaTek SoC. When it arrived, it had a slightly modified version of ICS, felt solid and well-made and ran very nicely, much more responsive than I expected from the specs. I decided to reflash the firmware to get a clean English-language install, but couldn't get it to load a new ROM.

        To cut a long story short, I dismantled it and found a nice Snapdragon CPU and lots of HTC branding. Turns out it was one of the HTC HD7 Windows phones that nobody would buy, re-purposed as an Android phone. They're selling like hotcakes in Asia.

        It'll be worth keeping your eyes open in a few months - there's likely to be a whole bunch of cheap Microsoft-subsidised reflashed Nokias showing up on the grey markets as well. They'd be good machines with a decent OS running on them.

  • from TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by sdnoob (917382) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:19PM (#39297079)

    (i know, i know.. i will punish myself later)

    Joe Matz, Corporate Vice President of Licensing and Pricing went on the record with âoeWe 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.â

    i read this as being: onlive is not presently legit but microsoft is playing nice (i.e. squeezing them for every last nickel without involving more than a few lawyers) for now -- until they lose patience (or feel threatened by being beating to market by an upstart.. not once but twice) and bring the sledgehammer down on onlive's entire business model -- windows and office desktop and gaming platform (xbox and windows games, at least)

    • Sooooo OnLive will be moving to LibreOffice shortly?

  • real ugly truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:21PM (#39297093)

    , the ugly truth may be that they can't.

    Well, no, not in your crappy backwater country, and not with some locked down hardware like an ipad. But in more sensible and advanced societies like, er, China, these kinds of things are readily available, and cheaper too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      China, these kinds of things are readily available, and cheaper too.

      Despite your trolling, you're right.

      You can get Windows easier and cheaper in China even if it's streaming.

      It's a lot easier to do things when you ignore patents and licenses.

    • Would that be the advanced society where Nobel Laureat Liu Xiaobo is still detained without charges, and his wife remains under house arrest?

      Or where you can be held for 2 years, legally, with no charges filed?

  • by jspenguin1 (883588) <jspenguin@gmail.com> on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:25PM (#39297121) Homepage

    If Amazon EC2 can license Windows, surely OnLive can. Microsoft won't turn down an opportunity to make more money.

    • Re:EC2 (Score:4, Informative)

      by Amouth (879122) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:42PM (#39297251)

      I agree with you except the issue is Windows 7.. MS offers licences for things like EC2 and SPLA for Server OS and software - but not for Windows 7 desktop OS.. the fact that Onlive provides a Windows 7 interface over a 2008R2 is what is odd and likely to cause them problems.

  • Would this mean a Cyber Cafe is also in violation? Is the license saying you can't rent out Window 7 machines? Or just that you can't rent out Window 7 machines over a network?
    • the pc's are licensed and it's local. They are not renting out a VM feed over the web.

      • Re:Cyber Cafe (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @11:59PM (#39297331)

        Windows desktop operating system and Microsoft Office system licenses do not permit renting, leasing, or outsourcing the software to a third party. As a result, many organizations that rent, lease, or outsource desktop PCs to third parties (such as Internet cafés, hotel and airport kiosks, business service centers, and office equipment leasing companies) are not in compliance with Microsoft license requirements. Rental Rights are a simple way for organizations to get a waiver of these licensing restrictions through a one-time license transaction valid for the term of the underlying software license or life of the PC.

        Nevermind I looked it up at https://partner.microsoft.com/40104043 [microsoft.com]

    • by number17 (952777)
      On a desktop, such as an internet cafe, you can license per user or per device, whichever suits your needs. With virtual desktop environments, like OnLive, you would license per device or talk with Microsoft and come up with an agreement beforehand.

      Licensing Windows for VDI Environments [microsoft.com]
  • Microsoft licensing can be complex, but a service that offers office for free for end users? How long did these guys think they would get away with this? They are lucky that Microsoft is lenient with true-up licensing. However, how much are they going to have to fork out for all the current users of the product who haven't given them a dime. There is no way this service will continue without costing end users the same as it would for any other service. That's if they don't go bankrupt first.

    The same thing
  • by zuperduperman (1206922) on Friday March 09, 2012 @12:35AM (#39297535)

    TFA:
    > The Windows 7 desktop just plain can’t be rented

    I guess it's not precisely Windows 7, but I seem to be able to rent full Windows instances from EC2 for .12 / hour.

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:25AM (#39299031) Homepage

    I still don't quite understand OnLive's business model, or why anyone would go for it. I know how it works, they render everything server-side and send you compressed video - fine. The roundtrip latency is probably not all that bad, as long as you have a short route to the server. I'm fine with the technical aspects, but what about the money ? It seems to me like the only way they can make a buck is via mass pirating.

    Those servers can't be cheap, each one is basically a mid-range gaming rig with a hardware video encoder, and can only serve one user at a time. Each needs a copy of the OS and games. You're basically renting access to a $1000+ gaming rig, plus bandwidth. Sure, the benefit is that just about any internet-connected device can now "play" PC games, but how does OnLive turn a profit ? Do they pool the game licenses so they only need as many paid keys as there are simultaneous players ? Or is this like all those ridiculous startups from the dot-com bust, where they spend fucktons of VC money and die a horribly quick death ?

    Don't get me wrong, I like the technical merits of OnLive. Even as we said "this will never work", well surprise: it works amazingly well for many people. I just can't see how they can deliver this without charging fucktons of money for the privilege.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Umm, because the free access is offered "as available", which basically means that it's a loss-leader, get people to start using it, as the use goes up, the availability of the free sessions become less, then the people who really want this (and I personally know a few) will start paying for it, and "viola!", you've got a business model.

      It doesn't seem all THAT mysterious to me, but maybe I'm missing something.

      -AC

  • by allo (1728082) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:04AM (#39299211)

    Most of the "you are not allowed to rent some software" licenses are invalid in many countries. So if they are hosting outside of US, it may be just okay.

  • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Friday March 09, 2012 @03:55PM (#39304507) Journal

    Disclaimer: I worked there for two years, though I haven't been with OnLive since early 2010 (before the OnLive Desktop). I do not hold any OnLive or Microsoft stock at this time, and therefore don't have a horse in this race. It's just amusing to watch.

    Something to consider. Steve Perlman, their CEO, was also the CEO of WebTV, which was sold to Microsoft. He knows the Microsoft execs at the highest level, and has a good business relationship with them. He also isn't stupid. I know that it's trendy to be cynical and hipster-esque about these things, and that it generates page views (and revenue from advertising, hence the motivation for TFA to appear as it did) to make this sort of speculation, but common sense dictates that no company of OnLive's size would do something as blatant and as public as wholesale commercial piracy. There is far too much to lose and very little to gain. In fact, one of OnLive's messages to software publishers is "software installed on OnLive cannot be pirated, because there is no external access to the binaries". Short of a hack that allows access to the back-end servers, you can no more pirate an app from OnLive than you can pirate AutoCAD by taking a photograph of the box. In that context, does any of TFA make sense?

    In fact, the entire article seems to come down to "I, random bloggy guy with zero personal access to what's actually happening, am not aware of a licensing program that fits, therefore such a licensing program does NOT exist, and CANNOT exist. I'm not smart enough or educated enough or informed enough know how it works, therefore it cannot work." Pretty thin, if you ask me.

    I do not have firsthand knowledge of this, but I know the people involved, at least on the OnLive side. They're not PirateBay; they are thoughtful people who are aware of the consequences of their actions and who want good business relationships with software publishers (including Microsoft). I think it is very likely that there is a deal in place which might not be a boilerplate license. It is also possible that such a license is part of a larger framework.

UNIX was not designed to stop you from doing stupid things, because that would also stop you from doing clever things. -- Doug Gwyn

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