Wednesday , 26 September 2018
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IDG Contributor Network: By 2020, we’ll be using Windows in the cloud

One of the interesting launches this month was the Blade Shadow PC.  This offering out of France seems to provide the best current view of the likely future for desktop computing.  It isn’t yet the present for most of us and I’ll get to that, but it showcases what could be done in the cloud albeit with some impressive heavy lifting. 

Let’s talk about why we are moving to a cloud based personal computer model, what the Blade Shadow PC (kind of a cool name) currently provides, and where it falls short this week. 

The drive for cloud PCs

The issues we all have to currently deal with are hardware migration (when you have to move from an old PC to a new one), software patching and updates, and adequate security in a world where threats are advancing faster than security software.  With the current model you own all of this and it is not only annoying it is dangerous.  The danger comes from the fact even companies are having trouble keeping up with new security exposures, those of us that work from home are mostly praying we aren’t targeted. 

A cloud service would be, in its ultimate form, like Amazon Prime TV for PCs.  You pay a subscription, you get a bundled set of apps, and you pay for any extras a la carte.  The service upgrades the hardware, does the migrations, handles the patching and updates, and wraps you with enterprise grade security.  You also get instant on, a potentially lower power bill, and far more piece of mind. 

You can get to your PC experience from your tablet, smartphone, or even TV.   And, the service should retain state so regardless of what hardware you use you’ll immediately return to what you were working on regardless of the hardware you use.  (At some point you should even be able to bring up your PC desktop on the bid Tesla like display expected on future cars). 

Blade Shadow PC

Costing around $420 a year the Blade Shadow PC service provides a dedicated workstation class PC for your remote use.  Current support levels provide up to 4K image and some VR support.   While the service seems to be targeted at performance gamers it isn’t limited to games and it will run design and engineering programs and production apps.   They promise to upgrade the hardware and operating regularly (it starts out as a Windows 10 machine) and you can stream the desktop to an older Windows (Windows 7), MacOS, or Android device.  It will also run on their $140 thin client device if you want a tiny kitchen or desktop office experience. This might be the easiest way to get full Windows functionality on a Mac or Android device.  

So, this checks most, but not all the boxes, for the perfect Netflix like cloud PC experience. 

Why it falls short (for now)

Currently USB support is very limited so getting all your peripherals to work could be problematic, this needs a decent internet connection suggesting mobile use may have to wait until pervasive 5G is available, and we’ll need a huge upgrade in plane capability before it can be used in the air.  In addition, until the service price includes the apps it really isn’t a Netflix experience or even an Amazon Prime TV experience really.  I understand the Blade folks are working on the USB support problem and 5G is coming and should be reasonably broad by 2020, and the GoGo plane internet service is due for a 10x performance bump in 2019 (I’m betting more like 2020).  This all suggests that in a few short years we could have a viable alternative, at least with regard to technology, in a Cloud based PC experience by 2020.  However, by then, I expect the major existing cloud service providers will jump in making it critical, if Blade Shadow PC wants to survive, that the get to critical mass or get acquired by one of the big players by then.  

Blade Shadow PC has the potential to become a Netflix for PCs but so does Netflix and all the other streaming providers – including Amazon.  I expect by 2020 we’ll have a lot of compelling alternatives to a running apps on locally on a PC and that this will drive a trend similar to what happened to Blockbuster and Netflix.  The old will give way to the new and we’ll never have to worry about patches, replacing hardware, or even buying apps the way we do now. 

Honestly, I can hardly wait…

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