There's no doubt: The cloud makes mobile computing more useful. But that truism can quickly lead you to a bad place -- namely, that mobile devices should just be portals to cloud services. I was reminded of that with Amazon.com's announcement last week of its AppStream service, which lets game developers run the compute-intensive rendering for their games on Amazon's cloud service and deliver the results to mobile game players over the Internet. The pitch is that basic smartphones without high-end GPUs can still play graphics-rich games.
Yes, this is more of the interminable native-versus-cloud argument that's been raging for several years, though in a different context. Here, the pitch isn't primarily about cross-platform deployment but about overcoming hardware limitations. Still, it's a false argument.
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Game playing has quickly migrated to mobile devices, led initially by the iPod Touch and now on bigger-screen devices like the iPad Mini. Apple's devices made in the last few years have sufficient processing power to handle most of today's graphics-rich games, as do most Android devices from name brands like Samsung, Motorola, and LG. But Amazon says users of less-capable mobile devices can run such games too, if assisted by its AppStream service, which will do the heavy lifting.
It makes sense for Amazon to say this: It makes a lot of money providing cloud services, and no doubt it would like to make game developers dependent on its services, as well as ultimately offer subscription-based gaming over that service, a Holy Grail for the gaming industry that wants to smooth the financial ups and downs of relying on hits.