Why Future Apps Will be Streamed, Not Installed

It’s no secret that, in the software space, faster systems make for happier, more productive workers.

But that gets increasingly challenging as apps get bigger. These days, visual-heavy apps like video games top 20GB, which can take four hours to download on a typical 10 Mbps connection. Even apps for workstations reach 10GB and take two hours to download. Regular updates and patches take up more time.

A solution is now in sight, though, with the rise of cloud computing and the availability of virtualized GPUs, thanks to our NVIDIA GRID technology. They will make digital downloads as much a relic of the past as CD-ROM drives.

Dawn of App Streaming

Several announcements this month show that we are at the dawn of the era of app streaming. Consider the following:

  • Amazon Web Services launched its G2 graphics instances based on NVIDIA GRID technology
  • OTOY released ORBX, software that sits on top of a G2 instance and enables any application to be streamed to your browser
  • Autodesk said it’s testing with OTOY the streaming of a suite of workstation apps to a browser using the NVIDIA GRID-based G2 instance
  • Playcast deployed its cloud gaming system to the AWS G2 instance and demonstrated Warner Bros’s “Batman: Arkham City” video game streamed to your smart TV
  • Mainframe2 demonstrated Adobe Photoshop running on NVIDIA GRID at AWS and streamed to a browser
  • Amazon announced AppStream, an in-house software for streaming apps

I’ve had the opportunity to test all of these technologies and many more yet to be announced. But the one that took my breath away was Mainframe2’s Photoshop demo.

I don’t have Photoshop installed on my computer. Instead, I followed Mainframe2’s beta link. It connected to an NVIDIA GRID G2 instance in the AWS data center, and the app loaded in my browser in under four seconds. The quality was astounding at 1080p and 60 fps, and it was perfectly interactive.

It struck me that the two-hour software digital download is dead.

A Call to Action for Software Companies

The technology business has always been about inflection points driven by disruptive technologies. Market share is won by pursuing the important ones. Never before in my 20 years in the business have I witnessed a technology so disruptive that it can reduce customer acquisition time by three orders of magnitude — from hours to seconds.

The Kepler generation of NVIDIA GRID GPUs with on-chip H.264 video encoders is already capable of rendering, capturing and encoding up to 32 streams per server. We think this metric will grow like Moore’s Law over the coming decade, driving down the cost of app streaming and making it ubiquitous.

The music and movie industries have already crossed the chasm from distributing disks, to offering digital downloads, to the convenience and instant gratification of streaming pulled by consumer demand.

This month we learned that the software and video game industries are about to go through the same inflection point to streaming led by leading companies like AWS, NVIDIA, OTOY, Playcast and Mainframe2. And pulled by consumers who will demand the same convenience, instant gratification and any-screen access.

Businesses should take seriously this inflection point in cloud computing, software application delivery and customer acquisition, and incorporate it in their strategic planning. The technology and business teams here at NVIDIA are available to help you navigate the app streaming era of computing.

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  • Moderen

    I… Don’t know how I fell about this….

  • Lord Waffle

    This is fine for people with fast internet. I, myself, struggle on 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Downloading software will be around for many more years as not everybody has access to lots of data when moving (laptops) or at home through low usage broadband. Will be nice to see how this progresses though.

  • Brian Caulfield

    Your feedback is welcome, either way.

  • Mike Allen

    Just give us a choice whether to download or stream…that’s all we ask…

  • asinglenoob

    Nvidia, what are you doing… think about this, if digital software downloads are dead, what will the point be in having your GPU’s? We won’t need your GPU’s because we’ll simply stream from sever side… This would undermine the entire GPU market for you. That being said I doubt any serious gamer will ever want to stream games. There will always be higher latency streaming then there will be running software on a local machine. For multiplayer the amount of latency simply wouldn’t be acceptable for most gamers. There may be some apps that work okay for streaming, such as Photoshop, but games? I don’t think so. Furthermore, what happens when your Internet goes down? Or when you’re in an area without Internet and you still need to get work done? Or if you have Internet access but it isn’t fast enough to stream apps what happens? If you’re streaming all your apps I’ll tell you what happens, absolutely nothing, because if you can’t stream apps, you can’t get any work done. Then the issue of ownership comes into play. What happens if the streaming service I use for games goes out of business? Do I lose all my games forever and tough luck for me? And what if the service I use to stream Photoshop and Office goes out of business? Do I lose those to? And since I’m constantly using a company’s server CPU cycles and and power I’ll likely be expected to pay a monthly bill to stream apps. Why the hell would I want to do that when as it is now I can pay once and use apps for as long as they’re relevant and do what I need them to do. Digital software is dead? I think not.

  • Brian Caulfield

    Many thanks for the feedback!

  • Wiam

    Please Give us the choice , don’t force it 🙁

  • Drew Dilworth

    I don’t think this is what PC Gamers want. Some professional users might like this, but I think a lot of professionals, like gamers, would be worried about offline access. This being said, I think both should have a choice between digital download and streaming

  • kontis

    Many large companies will be very tempted by the possibility of the end of piracy, but I cannot imagine that artists (who use high quality calibrated monitors) will accept completely distorted color space in h.264 codec (4:2:0) and other compression artifacts. Chroma(colors) is only 1/4 of luminance (FullHD blu-ray has only 960 x 540 resolution for colors).

    It’s even more controversial in the gaming space. The two hottest topics about the future of games are: cloud gaming and virtual reality – two completely incompatible technologies, because VR struggles even with the local, offline latency of game engines.

  • John Alkatraz

    i’d rather download games to play them.. i don’t care if i have to leave a game downloading over night… i’m sure the quality playing a game installed to my pc would be far superior to anything i could stream.

    that said… the option would be nice.. especially for game demos which i do just want to play quickly rather than spend time downloading just to try something out.

  • kontis

    The problem is giving us choice would sacrifice on of the most important benefits: zero piracy. Diablo III was only partially in the cloud (gameplay mechanics like in MMOs) and it worked, because there was no offline option and no gameplay code on the disc.

    Ubisoft is paranoid about PC piracy, so I can imagine they will be one of the first to do something like this: consoles = traditional(disc/download), PC = cloud only. I give it 3 years.

  • kontis

    “i’m sure the quality playing a game installed to my pc would be far superior to anything i could stream.”

    Not true. Compression artifacts is a problem, but notice how compressed movie from netflix is far more realistic than Crysis 3 on 4 Titans. Games in cloud may do things that are currently technologically impossible on a home PC, even the high end gaming machine. Developers also wouldn’t have to bother to make it scalable to consoles and low-end PCs (and that recently happened to Unreal Engine 4 – Epic removed the most impressive graphical feature: SVOGI).

  • John Alkatraz

    How fascinating.. do tell me more about how movies look more realistic than video games.

  • My45eagles


  • David Finch

    I don’t know if I completely get the concept. But if the video is rendering in a cloud solution this is huge. The example that comes to my mind is the Unlimited Detail Engine which is large voxel worlds.

    The only down side to this I think is it’s a over utilization of bandwidth. 20GB download compared to a unlimited need to stream video might be a down side. As well as it creates dependance on the internet which some people don’t like..

  • Tor Stian Bakken

    So just to have asked it how fast web would you need to stream as a example 4K suround Batman Origins ?
    read somewhere that you needed 10mb+ to stream a 3d hd movie on netflix and that was in compressed state?
    so what would happen if more then 1 person lives in the house so maybe 3 people wanted to play 4k suround at the same time ?
    and if streaming do happen how many people would lose their jobs ?
    no need for pc parts anymore no need for distributors anymore and a lot more would be obsolete not to forget HDD distributors.
    since i guess with streaming you would only need a phone/shield maybe and a tv/monitor
    so lets guess new phone maybe shield 2 comes out with 3 hdmi/displayport so you can manage suround
    or will the stream only manage single screen ?

  • http://www.nvidia.com/ Phil Eisler

    Rest assured that playing games locally on your GeForce PC will always be the best way to experience video games with the highest resolution, speed and quality. With GRID cloud GPUs, you will also get the choice to play streamed PC games on other devices like SHIELD or micro-consoles or even on your PC, if you want to try it before you download and install it.

  • erlend_sh

    Digital downloads need to stay. Most games can be rented, but some games need to be owned. You don’t buy Minecraft if you can’t hack around with it at-will, on your own terms. And you sure as hell don’t play CS:GO through a streaming service “for the small price of a little extra latency”.

    But game streaming is great, it really is. It allows for a whole new breed of “write once, deploy everywhere” development. As much as I’d like downloads to be available for every game, I know for some it’s simply not going to be an option, because I couldn’t have installed it on my platform of choice if I tried. Think Flash game streamed to an iPad for instance.

    This is a very exciting development. My big two hopes are:
    – Companies will always let gamers install games locally whenever it makes sense.
    – Streaming services will be available for indie developers at reasonable prices.

  • Brian Caulfield

    Great perspective.

  • Frank Kaufmann

    How would modding work? What if I want Skyrim with my 124 Mods and Graphics Enhancer installed? If game streaming means no modding the whole thing is dead from the begining. We could just aswell buy a stinking console.