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OnLive Brings Streaming Video Gaming to Whatever System You're Using — Even Your Mac

If you haven't seen or heard of OnLive yet, prepare to have your mind blown. OnLive may be the most interesting innovation in video games of the past year. Here's a brief taste of what it does.

Gaming in the Clouds

OnLive is cloud streaming video games. That means that it delivers quality video game entertainment while mostly doing away with going to the local game store, with the need for an expensive game console, or with being locked into gaming on a single PC. OnLive plays where you are, on your PC, Mac or TV. Instantly.

The way it works is simple. OnLive's game library is installed in the cloud. You access that cloud in a variety of ways through your internet connection. First you create an account for free at OnLive's web site. Then you download and install a small app to your computer, or you hook up the "microconsole" to your TV. Once installed, sign in to your account and you have instant access to hundreds of video games. You can install the app on as many devices as you want, and when you buy and play a game, your saves and progress get tied to your login account. So your game progress goes to whatever device you happen to be on at the moment.

OnLive also does away with the need to download the games or their demos, at all. In this respect, it gains an advantage over its most obvious competitor, the Steam game network, which requires local downloads for all the content you choose to access. So where, in the Steam universe, you might wait hours just to sample a demo of a game you're considering purchasing, with OnLive, once you click on the Game Trial button, you're automatically and instantly allowed to demo the game.

OnLive's optional microconsole also gives it an edge over the more expensive XBox360 and PS3 consoles, in cost, portability and ease of use. Because the games are installed in the cloud, there is no need for discs, and therefore no moving parts inside OnLive's tiny box. No red rings of death, no DVD readers that suddenly die. And at just a bit larger than an iPhone, the OnLive console will fit anywhere, while at $129 off Amazon for the box and a wireless controller, it fits just about any budget too. Apple fans will appreciate the packaging in which the console arrives; it's a sleek black box reminiscent of the packaging in which Apple places the iPhone.