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CES: Two cloud gaming firms, two different visions

CES: Two cloud gaming firms, two different visions Exclusive

January 11, 2012 | By Kris Graft

They’re often considered direct competitors, but cloud gaming firms Gaikai and OnLive have different visions of the data streaming future.

At CES in Las Vegas this week, the two companies showed just how different their plans are.

Gaikai, led by game industry veteran David Perry, announced a major deal with LG Electronics that will see Gaikai’s streaming game technology built into LG’s 2012 line of LG Cinema 3D TVs.

It’s a big step for Gaikai, not only for the fact that the company is moving from a concentration of streaming web-based game demos to full-fledged games, but because this deal will put full streaming games in front of people who aren't necessarily in the market for gaming hardware.

“Full games are coming,” said Perry. “…Our expectation is that we can place your game in front of 100 million people right away [by the end of 2012], and we’re way ahead of schedule to get there. So I have no fear of achieving that goal.”

“As far as television units [that have Gaikai integrated], when you hear who else we’re here with [at CES, secretly], I think it’ll all make sense,” he teased.

Gaikai’s is often compared to OnLive as both businesses are based on “cloud gaming.” The technology uses remote servers across the nation to stream games from high-powered data centers directly to users’ devices. This allows people with modest hardware to run games that would require a high-end setup if they were to run locally.

But whereas OnLive has an online marketplace where players can buy access to games, Gaikai is business-facing, partnering with game publishers and other businesses that can license Gaikai’s underlying technology to deliver steaming games or playable game demos via the web browser, or as in the case of the LG deal, full games via a connected TV.

This week, OnLive, which made news about a year ago when it announced its own TV partnership with Vizio and has its own TV-connected “MicroConsole,” made an announcement that wasn’t directly game-related, but fascinating nonetheless.

The newly-announced OnLive Desktop app " already approved by Apple " is Windows streaming from a remote server, directly to Apple’s iPad. And in a meeting with Gamasutra, OnLive CEO Steve Perlman showed the OS running on Android tablets, and promised support for virtually anything with a screen and a connection.

Perlman said Apple has been accommodating in bringing Microsoft’s OS over to iPad. “They said ‘fine.’ I think their attitude is similar to running Windows on a Mac. I mean, you already bought the iPad!” he tells us.

There are different levels of feature sets for the OnLive Desktop " the base model is free, and as plans become more expensive, the more storage space and feature the user gets. Perlman even demoed Autodesk Maya running from a remote server to a tablet. Is it practical? No, but it’s impressive.

It might seem odd that OnLive, known best for its video game efforts, would seemingly all of a sudden turn to business software. But in reality, OnLive’s just coming full circle.

Perlman revealed that the OnLive Desktop is “not a major new effort,” necessarily. “So here’s the sneaky truth: We launched the first version of Desktop white-labeled with Autodesk, before we launched the games service, as sort of a pilot. They were using it with Autodesk Labs so you could go and try out the next year’s version of these very high-end visualization applications. … It was a good thing for us try out in stealth mode.”

But in the end, OnLive’s business is still mainly focused on games, he said. “It’s still mostly games, in the sense that that’s what we’re set up to do. We’ve always had Windows running on most of these servers. So what we’re doing is now exposing the desktop that’s underneath all these games.”

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