Dear Economically Exuberant,
Here is my response to your letter: The Promise of the CLOUD
As time goes on, I get better at picking apart market speak. I see right through the video you sent. It’s super weak. First I would like to point out that this was five years ago. Five years is more than a generation in the world of technology. It’s probably more like 3-5 generations for mobile, and 2+ generations for hardware and software. Where is the product we were promised?
It’s Not as New as you Think
Remote computing and internet based (cloud is a buzzword that I refuse to use) services have been available for a very long time. Remember Hotmail, that email service we signed up for in MIDDLE school? That is “cloud computing.” You know Citrix and terminal servers? Those are remote computing services. Modern terminal servers have been around since the mid 80s in their primitive form and since the mid 90s in Microsoft’s products (Windows). This is to say that “cloud” is just a new buzzword to sell an old thing. Sure, it’s a little shinier now (like tablets, since the iPad), but it’s all the same concepts. For instance: video conferencing was demoed in the 1960s. It was many decades before it became ubiquitous – and still many people don’t really like it; meetings are still often face to face. I look at remote computing the same way- an inferior alternative to what you really want.
So they show a game in the video. Ignoring the fact that they can’t actually play the game at resolutions that hardcore gamers would accept, there is a glaring issue. The main point of this (as mentioned in the video) is making these games/apps available in the “mobile” space. That means tablets and phones. You simply can’t play FPS, strategy or any “real” games without a keyboard and mouse. Or at the least, a controller. Also, there is still an issue of bandwidth, which they address in the article you sent: “and the worst case would be several seconds of delay over wireless connection.“ A delay of more than 100-150ms for games or a fraction of a second for high end apps (video editing?) renders the service useless.
What about Costs?
Finally, I want to know how much the total cost will be. Service providers have to license the game, buy the card(s) and build the servers. Then you have to host the server behind a huge pipe. It’s basically building servers that take the place of multiple computers and their associated bandwidth. Even with product evolution, the cost will not be lower than just buying your own computer. You still need broadband internet to connect, so no cost savings there. To me, this is just a case of “everything that was old, is new again,” much to the delight of salespeople and marketers. With no disrespect, the technology company you worked for gave you the insight of the “pusher,” not the user. I am the most discerning of users and I have the technical education and experience to back it up. Another note on price: if you use the argument that lower future pricing will increase the commercial viability of a product, I would also point out that this could make the same devices we already use more commercially viable as well- super powerful SoCs could make tablets into gaming devices in their own right, without the need to offload computation or rendering.
Even if this is “the future,” you must realize that this is a very long (happening for decades already), and very slow process. It’s nothing new and it’s not going to take over this year, just like it didn’t take over last year. Many folks keep talking about fuel cell vehicles, hybrid vehicles, self driving cars, solar, wind, supersonic aircraft and more, with regards to “the future.” Some of these things have been available for years, and yet, they have not changed the world (My belief is that autonomous vehicles will have a massive impact when they finally replace current tech). Case in point: supersonic aircraft for civilians (ie- Concord). It is just not practical, even if it is possible.