OnLive, the up-and-coming pioneers of streaming, instant-play video games, have released their first iOS app titled OnLive Viewer, which is meant to give iPad gamers a mere taste of what the company intends to offer in the future.

Being a relatively new and non-iOS focused gaming service, it’s likely that many of you are not overly familiar with what OnLive is all about, which would defeat the purpose of explaining what OnLive Viewer for iPad is capable of right about now.  So, with that in mind, here is your quick and dirty rundown of OnLive.

OnLive is a streaming video game service that allows nearly anyone with a Mac or PC to play the latest and greatest video games, regardless of your machine’s technical specifications. This is achieved by allowing OnLive’s powerful data servers to do all of the dirty work on their end, and then those servers push the game to your computer via the web, giving you control of the game itself without every having to load it onto or from your drive.  The company also offers a separate, physical game system that is able to connect to your television, but operates just like the browser-based versions. The service requires a monthly subscription to play full games. Got it?  Good, onto the next part of this story.

The just-released OnLive Viewer app for iPad is meant — for now, at least — to demonstrate what the OnLive service is capable of.  It’s a free app that allows you to actually watch other OnLive gamers play their games in real-time.  You can choose to watch a random player just by tapping on one of the many streaming videos, or you can find your friends and cheer them on.  It also allows you to watch game trailers for current and upcoming games, view user uploaded brag clips, find new games, add friends, and view your profile.

“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 John Spinale, OnLive VP of Games and Media. “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.”

What it isn’t capable of, however, is the ability to actually play OnLive games on your iPad.  Since this is such a new and very technical service, the company is taking iPad integration rather slowly.  Current games haven’t been designed with touch-screens in mind, but the company is currently developing touch- and motion-aware games as we speak.  So, basically, OnLive Viewer is the tip of the iceberg.

To utilize OnLive Viewer on your iPad, you will need to sign up for a free OnLive account.  You are also required to have a stable and fast Internet connection, because that’s what this whole thing is based on.  If you don’t have a consistent download speed of 3 Mbps, the app won’t even work, just like the service itself on Mac and PC.  And even that is the bare minimum, as a 5 Mbps or better connection is recommended.

If you meet all of the requirements above, I recommend checking out OnLive Viewer.  It’s a pretty neat and ambitious service that may forever change the way you think about playing and purchasing console-quality games.