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Give old PC or Mac new life as high-end cloud computer

A French start-up claims to have invented the “computer of the future” which will turn any low-powered PC, old Mac or smartphone into a high-end machine

The seemingly impossible is possible thanks to cloud computing, meaning key elements of the device, called Shadow, are online, says the Paris-based firm Blade.

Blade’s marketing director Yannis Weinbach said: “Instead of having all the elements of a computer under your desk, they are stored in a secure data centre. It gives you the equivalent of a computer worth €1,500.”

Shadow users access the service via the internet and cloud with an app (or using a small desktop box) on any smartphone, tablet or screen and any  keyboard and mouse via a wired connection, Wifi or 4G. The technology then transmits a perfect image, up to 4K, to the user’s device.

Mr Weinbach said: “The advantage is that it gives total freedom of use.

“You do not need to worry about the contents because we take care of those. If something goes wrong, we fix it. It will never be out of date as we constantly update different elements.

“Within a couple of clicks you can get to any part of the computer you wish to use, whether to play a game, access files, or use software like Photoshop and you will be able to do that on the device of your choice.”

Launched in November, it has 18,000 people signed up so far in western Europe and California and hopes to spread throughout the US this year to reach 100,000 customers.

The company wants to “free users from the constraints of physical PC hardware and give them what they want and need: access to a powerful, secure, top-of-the-line Windows 10 computer anytime, anywhere and on any device”.

It needs a 15Mb/second internet connection, which will be a challenge for many in rural France, but Blade is testing a system using 5MB/second.

Mr Weinbach says hackers will find it harder as they will have to first hack into the data centre, and then the individual’s computer. They cannot guarantee protection from viruses, but will be able to fix problems within minutes of a call to their support unit.

Available on a subscription-only basis at €29.95 a month, the offer is aimed at high-end users at present, especially gamers; it would be expensive for someone with basic needs.

Within four years you would have paid the equivalent of a new €1,500 computer and still be paying, but would have had no running or repair costs, which Blade says is cheaper.

Mr Weinbach said previous cloud computer services failed as the technology was not ready: Blade had created a system which works.

“Our CEO, Emmanuel Freund got the idea in his previous job when he was working on a smartphone for older people and realised it was hard to ensure the hardware would always be able to meet the software’s needs.”

In 2015, he and his partner Acher Criou opted to remove the hardware constraints and relocate powerful components to the cloud, to allow the client’s hardware to be minimal.

Raising €3million from private investors, they showed the device in autumn 2016 and brought in €10m of funding. By June, 2017, they had 50 employees, 5,000 customers and a further €51m from investors. They now employ 100 people in France, producing a service for gamers who demand the highest quality.

Mr Weinbach said: “Now we want to provide a service for users with more modest needs at a cheaper rate.

“Our target is to replace all the computers in the world.”

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