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OnLive Viewer brings game spectating to the iPad

Online streaming gaming service OnLive has announced the availability of a free OnLive Viewer mobile application for the Apple iPad, enabling iPad owners to spectate on any of “millions” of OnLive video game sessions as they are being played by gamers worldwide. And the spectating service isn’t just for the iPad: OnLive has also announced a beta version of the OnLive Viewer for Android, with the Galaxy Tab in mind.

If watching other people play video games sounds like a wonderful sleeping aid, think again: according to OnLive, it’s popular. “Spectating of other players is by far the most popular OnLive activity after gameplay itself, and the convenience and mobility of iPad and Android tablets adds an incredible dimension to it,” said OnLive’s VP of games and media John Spinale, in a statement. “Watching live games and interacting with the people playing them takes social gaming to an entirely new level. It’s unlike any other experience. And people love it.”

The principle behind OnLive is that customers tap into top-flight titles via broadband connections and cloud services. However, unlike services like Steam, the games aren’t actually being played on OnLive users’ local hardware: they’re just receiving a video stream of their gameplay that takes place on OnLive’s cloud. As long as users have good bandwidth—and low latency—they can play demanding games without investing in serious gaming hardware.

Users of the OnLive Viewer can spectate on any public game anyone is playing on the OnLive service, as well as switch between game sessions at will. OnLive Viewer users can also view and rate “brag clips,” which are video captures of particularly tough (or funny) moves or sequences in a game that folks post for posterity.

OnLive says it plans to bring “full game play capability and more complete integration with mobile device features” in future versions of the OnLive Viewer. Although it may be tough for tablet devices to tap into intensive games designed for PCs (and meant to be controlled with the likes of a keyboard and mouse rather than a touchscreen), the potential of streaming games designed for tablets is intriguing—and we’d bet OnLive is already thinking in that direction.

The OnLive Viewer is free for the iPad via the iTunes App Store, and there’s no charge for spectating on games. Playing games via OnLive requires the purchase of a daily pass or monthly subscription.