HTC Puts $40 Million In Gaming Co OnLive; Will Launch a Tablet At MWC?

Less than 24 hours after announcing that it would pay $48.5 million to buy mobile video specialists Saffron Digital, it has announced one more strategic move into content services: it is investing $40 million into cloud-based, gaming-on-demand provider OnLive. MocoNews has received a hint that this may be pointing to a strategy wider than simply enhancing content on mobile handsets, with a tablet launch possibly coming as soon as next week.

The news about HTC’s investment in OnLive was first made in a statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange, where HTC indicated it would buy 5.33 million OnLive shares at $7.50 each. The news was then reported by the Taiwan news site Digitimes.

OnLive, headquartered in Palo Alto, offers users the option of renting single games or for subscribing, Netflix-style, to a flat-rate, all-you-can-eat service for $9.99 per month. The latter only came out of beta at the beginning of this month, and currently features 38 games.

Currently, OnLive focusses on delivering games via Internet connections to connected televisions as well as what it calls “entry-level” home computers. The cloud-based gaming world is becoming increasingly busy, but OnLive has some impressive pedigree behind it that may give it an extra push:

Founded and headed by Steve Perlman, who developed QuickTime (NYSE: TWX) and has been a chief scientist at Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), it counts Warner Bros., Autodesk, Maverick Capital, AT&T (NYSE: T), BT (NYSE: BT) and The Belgacom Group, among its other existing investors. Other executives at the company include COO Etienne Handman, who had been one of the founders of Pandora; and CSO Mike McGarvey, who had been the CEO of games giant Eidos.

Eidos, along with a number of other gaming companies like EA, THQ (NSDQ: THQI), Ubisoft and Konami, are among the publishers that provide games to OnLive’s service.

Tablets and HTC’s bigger strategy. While yesterday’s investment in Saffron Digital may fit more directly in with HTC’s current mobile product portfolio — OnLive currently does not specifically develop services for mobile gaming — the OnLive investment could hint at HTC’s ambitions beyond the mobile handset and into other connected devices.

In January, there were rumours swirling around in January that HTC was planning to launch three Android-based tablet devices — with the first, the Flyer, coming out by March of this year.

That announcement has yet to materialise but we have had a hint from a well-placed source that HTC may be planning to debut these devices next week during the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. HTC, like other Android-based device makers, will be in the months and years ahead looking for more ways of differentiating themselves with their services, to set their Android devices apart from the rest of the pack.

We will post more news on HTC’s announcements as and when we hear it.