When buying a computer, purchasing professional software becomes a challenge. Programs like Photoshop or Office 360 could end up costing a small fortune in the form of a single one-time payment or slowly siphoned off through monthly billing. On top of that, that voice in the back of your head starts asking, “How long until they update this app to where it won’t run on my computer anymore?”
Cloud computing has turned into a game-changer for software development, especially in the past few years. Once graphically intensive tasks bottlenecked by processor speeds have since been offloaded to servers across the country. Many users have a day-to-day workflow that is limited only by the speed of their internet, not their graphics card.
A great example of this is Google’s suite of workflow apps such as Docs and Sheets. It’s rare to find a computer that doesn’t meet the system requirements to install Microsoft Office, but features such as live collaboration or simple UI tweaks on locally-stored programs require slow (and often painful) updates through some sort of Update Assistant in order to be implemented. Google Docs never has this problem — features can be added overnight and since it’s all taking place in your Chrome tab, you never have to worry about obsolescence or your version of Docs not working with your grandma’s version of Docs.
This is important not just because of the technical developments. It also makes professional tools and products available to more users than ever before. While some internet connections can be unreliable at best, a WiFi hotspot or cable speed upgrade is much more attainable to the average person than a $800 CPU + GPU upgrade.
Figma (which we love, check it out here) is a well-made, perfectly competent alternative to Adobe XD or Sketch. Features such as live collaboration are, in many ways, leagues ahead of their competition. Unlike the Adobe suite, any computer with Google Chrome can use Figma. Now, the student who can only afford a $249 Chromebook now has the same toolset as a senior UX enthusiast with a $2500 MacBook Pro.
We are just beginning to see cloud technology evolve into its next phase of making hardware irrelevant. The End of the Game Console on Xbox goes in depth on how they plan to make the xCloud brand ubiquitous. That’s not to say that hardware will go away entirely, but the migration of essential apps from desktop to browser shows a fascinating technical proposition. It’s an exciting opportunity to make pro-level tools that were once inaccessible more available.