Last week, I read news of a new mobile operating system that proposes a fairly unique solution to the problem of low-processing power in mobile phones – the application of cloud computing power for low-cost phones.
Using this concept, Puffin OS wants to be that mobile operating system that bridges the digital divide and provides high performance on affordable mobile phones and smartphones. Let’s explore how that works and what challenges this brings to the table.
How does cloud computing work?
If you are new to cloud computing, here is a quick explanation. It is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and/or process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. In this instance in which Puffin OS seeks to use cloud computing power on phones, it is the processing power that exists in the cloud rather than on the terminal (in this case, smartphone).
The benefits of using cloud computing power on smartphones
In other words, what Puffin OS wants to do is instead of needing a powerful processor on your smartphone, all you get a connection that provides you with one in the cloud. Powerful processors and large RAM are expensive components of smartphones. By eliminating the need for those on the device, you end up with a device that costs much less, yet can do as much, if not more, than current flagships.
It isn’t a new concept. It just hasn’t been commonly applied on smartphones this way, which is why I said earlier that it is fairly unique.
What Puffin OS offers
I had a look at the Puffin OS website and it is clear how it has the potential of breaking hardware boundaries and providing best price-performance and possibilities on affordable devices for the next billion users.
Puffin OS is based on Android, which is a good thing. The specific technology that it uses to shift workload from the local device to an avatar in the cloud is called Avatar Technology.
Have we not seen this with the Nextbit Robbin?
No; this is not what the now discontinued Nextbit Robin Android smartphone offered. The Nextbit Robbin offered cloud storage, not cloud computing. The concepts are similar – instead of needing 128GB storage on your phone, you get it in the cloud. Yes, you eliminate some costs too by eliminating storage on the phone.
But the difference is that the computing power of the Netxbit Robbin existed on the device. With Puffin OS, it is computing power that is moved to the cloud.
Nextbit Robbin = cloud storage. Puffin OS = cloud computing power or processing.
But even Nextbit Robbin faced unsurmountable challenges and eventually, the its cloud servers were shut down and the brand sold to Razer Inc. And there that experiment ended.
cloud computing power for low-cost phones
But using cloud computing power poses its own challenges
As you can imagine, cloud computing requires an always-on Internet connection for it to work smoothly. If not, what you will end up with is a frustrating user experience.
The number one challenge of Puffin OS’ approach is that the target audience often have crappy or slow internet. The people who have limited access to powerful smartphones are also the same demography that often have limited access to good Internet access.
So, perchance we are able to put a Puffin OS phone in their hand, how do we solve the crappy Internet problem? A cloud computing solution of this sort requires a reliable Internet connection at all times.
The second challenge is that where reliable Internet is available, the target audience cannot afford it. Puffin OS will need to enter into partnerships with mobile operators to deliver special low-cost data bundles for their phone users in order for this concept to work. This will be similar to how Reliance Jio worked with KaiOS to power the JioPhone with low-cost data plans in India.
The third challenge is also that of cost. The cloud computing power may have moved but it has costs that have to be met. These costs are likely to be passed to users as a small monthly charge. The team behind Puffin OS is yet to make a statement about how much that will cost.
Perhaps a partnership with mobile operators will bundle that fee into the special, low-cost data tariffs for Puffin OS phones.
So, while Puffin OS’ proposal of using cloud computing power through its Avatar Technology indeed solves the problem of expensive mobile hardware, it poses a new problem of user experience based on last mile delivery and service cost. If they find a way to solve these challenges, we may just have a winner here.
If interested in having a closer look, check out the Puffin OS website HERE.
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