With the eventual tablet release, OnLive may prove to be a serious mobile alternative.
I recently picked up an iPad and, despite the impulse nature of the purchase, haven't been disappointed with it yet. As an all-in-one device that's quick to start up, easy to carry around and doesn't heat up like my Alienware M11x to uncomfortable temperatures when under load, I've found it's replaced my Kindle as a primary reader, serves as my Netflix player through HDMI to my TV and is usually the only thing I need to bring on a plane. It has great games too, though many I've tried tend to be a little too simple for my tastes and don't hold my attention for very long.
That's in part why I was interested in Sony's Vita. It's marketed as a mobile platform that allows you to access more hardcore experiences, which in this case I mean titles that aren't based on gameplay loops of one minute or less. Also, games on Vita look really pretty, and the traditional console controller inputs are built right in – you don't have to solely rely on a touch pad. That'll be great initially, but OnLive seems to be in a much better position as time goes on.
Later this year OnLive plans to roll out two new products: a version of OnLive that allows you to access almost its full library of games on tablets (without the need for an OnLive MicroConsole), as well as a universal wireless controller. Combining these means you'll be able to play hardcore games on a tablet, like an iPad, without having to try and mess around with a touch screen to, say, play Borderlands. Of course it'd still require you to have an internet connection, but the long-term savings are pretty clear.
The idea of bypassing hardware entirely to play games – OnLive takes care of the technical muscle for you – has always made a lot of sense. Though I still like buying PC hardware so I can see the latest and greatest on my home system, I certainly understand the appeal of being freed from the component upgrade cycle and just focus on the video game part. When the experience is brought to mobile on my iPad, assuming it actually works properly (as OnLive representatives naturally claim it does), I feel like it'll be another serious blow to the viability of traditional handheld gaming, which is already being crowded out by smartphones and tablets.