The idea of connecting a basic computer to a more powerful one over a network isn't new – the first modern computer networks began as dumb terminals that accessed smart mainframes – but improvements in hardware technology, internet speeds and online software are now making the concept genuinely viable for consumers. Enter new startup Paperspace, which wants you to run your computer from the cloud.
This is how it works. At home, you log into Paperspace's servers, and your virtual desktop, applications and webpages are streamed to you from the cloud. There's the option of logging in via a browser on an existing computer, or using a small puck-shaped device supplied by Paperspace (called the Paperweight) that you connect up to any monitor, keyboard and mouse you have lying around.
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It may seem a needlessly complicated way of doing things, but the benefits soon become apparent. You can get extra processing power as and when you need it; you can access your "computer" anywhere there's a web connection; and if you break your hardware or there's a fire or flood at your house then everything important is safely stored online.
The idea is not too dissimilar to using a Chromebook, though in this case you're streaming full desktop applications over the web, and therefore have more options in terms of software. The idea of streaming Netflix or YouTube media to your desktop may sound like one stream too far, but Paperspace promises the experience is smooth and stable (assuming you have an internet connection of at least 15 Mbps download speed and less than 60 ms of latency).
One of the key advantages is that your computer won't get laggy or slow down over time, thanks to the upgrades and optimization happening on the Paperspace side. You could think of it as a monthly subscription fee to keep your computer as good as new (and accessible from anywhere). The developers are promising that all connections and data transfers are securely encrypted en route.
It might not be an ideal solution for everyone – and if Paperspace goes down, your computer goes down with it – but it's an interesting alternative to the way home computing has worked for the past few decades. Once high-speed, stable internet becomes ubiquitous, more services like Paperspace and the Nvidia Shield console are going to pop up.
Paperspace is now taking US$50 pre-orders for the Paperweight device. The promo video below introduces the system and gives basic cloud service pricing as being around US$10 per month. The service is also available to business users. It's expected to launch officially in September.