Nvidia Netflix-style Game Service Points to Future of Streaming Mobile Productivity Tools

by Matt Klassen on November 19, 2014

Although it was an announcement that likely appeals mostly to gamers, popular graphics processor manufacturer Nvidia’s Netflix-like streaming game service for its Shield mobile products may have altered the entire course of the mobile landscape, changing the way we use our mobile devices and what we use them for.

Last week Nvidia announced its GRID gaming service, designed to offer free streaming delivery of PC-level games for all users of its Shield tablets. Using about the same bandwidth as high quality HD streaming video, this new service will allow users to render a host of games that will rival what users currently experience with today’s game consoles or PCs.

But I’ll be honest here; none of this really interested me. Instead I was floored when I came across tech analyst Rob Enderle’s extrapolated vision for this announcement, seeing a future where ‘thin client computing’ finally becomes the norm and devices currently used for consumption will be changed radically into platforms focused on high productivity and creativity, all through this new streaming software model.

As Enderle explains, the concept of “thin client computing” was developed in the late ‘90s, a precursor vision to much of what we get with cloud computing today, where client computing stations would depend on third-party computers (servers) to do most of the computing, storage, and operations. At the time the project failed to take hold due to the prohibitive high cost of the client computer, poor network connections, and high latency issues. But today most of those issues have been resolved, and so with Nvidia’s announcement we finally get to see the beginning of realizing this dream.

“But how does this affect all us non-gamers?” you might wonder. As Enderle explains, “If you can meet the performance needs of a PC gamer, where latency and resolution are big factors, you can even more easily meet the needs of productivity workers.” While Nvidia’s announcement covered only games, it won’t be long before productivity software will be delivered in a similar way, streaming to a particular device from a particular company.

For instance, imagine the next iteration of Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet series being offered with a free streaming version of Office, one that promised the same productivity, connectivity, and experience that you would get if you bought the suite and installed it on the tablet itself.

Back to the original vision for thin client computing for a moment, it was thought at the time that users could use a pass card to access any client computer anywhere and have their work appear just as it had been left during their previous session. While such technology is certainly a reality today, all of that will soon be available with your mobile device, only now your mobile device is the client and all you’ll need is a password. Just think, using your smartphone or tablet to access full PC grade tools streaming as seamlessly as if you had installed them yourself, all fully accessible on-demand, whenever you are.

It’s not hard to imagine not only the increased productivity that could accompany such streaming software services, but the savings as well, allowing companies to save on client machines as workers will be able to access everything they need from their tablet or smartphone.

Again, while I have little interest in Nvidia’s GRID streaming game service itself, this points to a new epoch of remote working, where all computing, all productivity software tools, everything we currently do on a multitude of devices today, will be available instantaneously from anywhere, all in the palm of our hand. As Enderle concludes, “The limitations we generally have attributed to small wireless devices will be a thing of the past.”

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