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OnLive Desktop Now Uses Windows Server 2008R2

OnLive has reportedly resolved its licensing issues with Microsoft over the OnLive Desktop app by quietly switching out Windows 7 for Windows Server 2008R2. Users noticed the switch over the weekend, and so far OnLive hasn't published an official announcement reporting the obvious change.

"We're pleased to have been told that the OnLive desktop application is now accessing our software by hosting it on Windows Server," Microsoft said on Wednesday.

The news arrives after Microsoft said it would investigate how OnLive planned to dish out a Windows 7 environment without forcing a licensing fee on each user. Critics immediately questioned the OnLive service shortly after it went live months ago, thus sparking Microsoft's interest. So far the only devices capable of running OnLive Desktop are Apple's iPad and several Android tablets.

"It's unfortunate that it went down the way it did," reports desktop virtualization expert Brian Madden. "Gabe and Jack met with OnLive CEO Steve Perlman back in January and asked how OnLive Desktop was licensed, because it appeared to be illegal. Steve just told them that they had a lot of licensing experts in the company and that it was fine."

Perlman reportedly has close ties with Microsoft, as he was previously a division president at Microsoft and has sold startups to the software maker. But currently it's unknown whether anything really changed in the app, or whether OnLive just made this small change to satiate the community, Madden added.

So far no details have been forthcoming from either company in regards to what terms were reached. In OnLive Desktop's present state, according to reports, Windows 7 is "sorely" missed. Removed are Windows Journal and the touch optimizations provided by Windows 7. Internet Explorer is reportedly lackluster under the new OS, rounding out a reportedly overall "difficult" tablet operation experience.

"The new OnLive Desktop based on Windows Server is still functionally equivalent, with access to the full MS Office suite, but the touch operation is clumsy at best. For a service that is accessed on an iPad or Android tablet, this makes operation much harder than it was with Windows 7 running things," ZDNet's James Kendrick reports.

Despite the removal of Microsoft's touch-optimized Windows 7, the current replacement is still a functionally equivalent OS, granting access to the full MS Office suite although the touch controls are reportedly "clumsy at best." Some users are complaining that handwriting support has simply vanished.

Guise Bule, cofounder of VDI consultancy tuCloud, doesn't think OnLive is being completely open about its compliance with Microsoft. There's concern that OnLive may have merely thrown on a skin to make Windows 7 looks like Windows Server 2008R2. While that may seem silly, Madden seemingly backs up this theory suggesting that it's possible to configure the Windows Server desktop to look and feel like a Windows 7 desktop.

"We're not completely convinced," Bule told The Register. "We think they may have skinned Windows 7 to make it look like Server 2008R2. We're seeing traces of Windows 7 in there, but can't prove it. If they have downgraded to R2, then at least they are playing on the same playing field as the rest of us."

Honestly, re-skinning Windows 7 to fool Microsoft just doesn't seem like a tactic OnLive would take given the progress it's made in streaming games and a DaaS.