Invest hundreds, or even thousands, of euros in a computer would be overkill and obsolete more or less rapidly ? A passage almost forced to if you are a “gamer”, graphic designer, engineer in design office, photographer, art director, book designer… all the crafts and hobbies that require heavy it investments. Tomorrow, things could change with a simple but revolutionary idea, that of the computer cloud-based.
A complicated term for a simple idea. “It is a matter of providing access to a full PC in a “data center” to 1,500 kilometres up to you,” says Yannis Weinbach, head of marketing at Blade group, a French start-up that, at the end of August, and presented his service during the Gamescom, the international exhibition of video games in Cologne, Germany. The beast is invisible, called “Shadow”, is equipped with the latest components (hard disk, SSD, Nvidia graphics card 1080, Intel Xeon processor, 12 Gb of ram) and a Windows license 10. In short, a “war machine” update every eighteen to twenty four months to always stay on top.
Picture of the Datacenter Equinix P4, which is located in Pantin in the 93, where is a part of PC Shadow.
Only pre-requisite for the image to be correctly sent from the data center to the screen : have an Internet connection with a throughput of 15 Mb/sec at a minimum, of 30 to 50 Mb/sec for optimum use, in other words, the optical fiber. “If our customer base consists instead of gamers, we realize that there are more people that use Shadow for the photo montage, or video (via software such as Premiere and Photoshop), but also for the computer-aided design, says the representative of Blade. We provide access to a powerful machine, users, them, do what they want.” Has provided to pay a monthly subscription which varies 29.95 for 44,95 euros, depending on the length of commitment. This price guarantees the exclusive use of a PC Shadow, so access to all of its computing power 24 hours on 24.
“The PC of the future”
To connect, two options exist. The easiest way is to download the app Shadow. Available for Android smartphone (iOS is in beta), PC or Mac computer and tv Android, it is used for example to launch a video game on his Mac, and then after a break to restart it on a tv or a mobile phone. Second option : if the user does not have a computer at home, it is possible to buy the Shadow Box (120 euros), where connects the screen and has five USB devices. Once connected to the Internet, the housing receives and decompresses the images transmitted by the Shadow. A new version smaller and more silent, the Shadow Ghost, was even presented at the Gamescom. It will be available by the end of 2018. “It was so named because it is the ghost of the computer in the past,” explains the marketing director. Include : “Shadow will be the PC of the future.”
In its promotional pictures, Shadow insists on the multi-platform service. In fact, the wi-fi connection or mobile is not always sufficient to enjoy it fully, as The Express has seen in its tests.
A bet far from being won in advance. Many are those who, even today, are afraid that the computer in the cloud will not be able to deliver images of good quality and provide a latency (delay between the calculation and the display) is suitable. “We hear these criticisms, but the technology is progressing,” says Yannis Weinbach. The figures seem to give him reason. After having open subscriptions on the 29th of November last, Blade already has 25 000 customers. The company, the rise in October 2015, has raised € 54 million. Since then, she has opened two data centers in Paris, two others in the United States and one in Amsterdam. “Lately, we have invested heavily to reduce latency, so that users may not be able to tell the difference between their computer and a Shadow,” says the marketing director.
rotate To the software and the games the most greedy,
What better way to enjoy these promises to test their product ? In the halls of the Gamescom, in spite of a Wi-Fi erratic, it has been possible to play video games Doom and Far Cry 5. Conclusion : The graphics are impeccable and the fluidity largely satisfactory. Another study further, a few days later, in Paris, with a fiber optic connection to 900 mb/sec, has provided a more precise idea. Five minutes after you have created an account, Shadow is operational. Remains only to complete the configuration of Windows 10 and you’re catapulted into your new computer. On the desktop, the image is perfect. Beside speed, there is nothing detectable to the naked eye, the mouse cursor might be bullied, the movement seems fluid. Same is true in surfing the Internet or launching a video.
Screenshots made during the first connection to the PC’s Shadow, which leads the user on a screen of the end of the installation of Windows 10. Once the OS is installed, it is possible to configure its Shadow (speed of connection, etc).
But the interest of the bid Shadow is mainly to provide a computer capable of running the software and the games the most greedy. So we installed five – shooter games (Doom, Counter-Strike:Global Offensive, Player Unknown’s Battleground) and strategy (Frostpunk, Endless Space2) -, playable online or solo, in order to experience the best capabilities of the machine. Aprèit ;s several days of tests, the first impression is generally positive. The graphics are beautiful. The latency is undetectable in the games solo, but it is slightly noticeable for those who are on-line requiring a high responsiveness. Other problems, the launch of the application was sometimes impossible for hours and the rare slowdowns – probably related to the Internet connection – have sometimes prevented the use of the Shadow.
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And this is one of the limitations of the product : the service is optimal only with a stable connection and fast. De facto, it excludes areas not fibrées. For others, the offer is an interesting alternative to the purchase. It eliminates the need to pay a large sum of money, the electric bill drops dramatically, and the failures of hardware is no longer a barrier – maintenance is performed by Blade. If the company is still young, its beginnings are encouraging. The arrival of the 5G – can serve as an alternative to fiber and broadband connection in the street – could even realize the dream of the Shadow to become the “PC of the future”.
Met at Gamescom, Yannis Weinbach, head of marketing at Blade group, has agreed to answer our questions.