Even people running less demanding software will benefit from the speed that OnLive’s technology offers; end users will not notice that the program is actually running on a remote server. This means that, for example, a hospital IT department could run its medical records software from the cloud. Any software upgrades would then be instantly reflected throughout the hospital, with no need to install them on each computer. And if a computer were stolen, patient privacy would not be compromised, because the data would not be stored locally.
But OnLive’s method of enabling collaboration between widely scattered workers on different platforms could become its most significant feature. Because the output from any application running in OnLive’s cloud is a video stream, the stream can easily be sent to multiple devices, allowing workers to look over each other’s virtual shoulders.
OnLive is working with TV manufacturers on sets that could access its system directly (Vizio, a U.S. manufacturer of LCD televisions, announced the first such devices in January). Imagine “an architect who comes to a client with a tablet,” Perlman says. “The client’s got a big TV in the conference room. The architect can control the presentation of building plans on the tablet; it’s appearing on the TV; and maybe there’s a specialist back at the architect’s office on a Mac or PC.” That specialist could adjust the plans on the fly as the client asks for changes. OnLive plans to launch its desktop-as-a-service product sometime in 2012.