Is Mainframe2 the end for desktop computing?

If Angel funded Mainframe2 has their way with the cloud, what they reveal this week at Demo Fall 2013, will make Adobe’s Creative Cloud feel more like a light mist, whilst simultaneously driving the final nail into the coffin of desktop computing.

What Mainframe2 is attempting is to empower users of the multi-billion dollar software industry to run thousands of non-web Windows and Linux applications, in any browser that supports HTML5, via the cloud.

Imagine using Photoshop on your cell phone during your morning commute!

Don’t like the upfront cost of purchasing Adobe CS6, or the idea of paying the subscription for CC? Mainframe2’s rental model will allow you to dip in and out as you need at a cost that reflects your actual usage.

And because all of this is maintained in that mysterious cumulonimbus cloud high the sky, you’ll always be working with the latest releases.

Unlike already established virtualization and cloud computing providers such as VMware and Citrix, Mainframe2 claims to be able to scale power to the nth extreme by using as many CPU’s and GPU’s as your job requires. Think of it as engineering workspaces (plural) in the cloud. Because Mainframe2 supports nVIDIA’s virtual GPU standard, graphical intensive programs will not only be doable, but will be the primary targets for their Autumn release.

Granted, their vision is of the grandest nature, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t supremely confident in their ability to pull it off — their founder and CEO is Nikola Bozinovic, as Chief Technologist for MotionDPS, his work with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory enabled pilots to fly unmanned drones on different continents in real time over a multi-link satellite connection; for some reason, letting me edit an Illustrator file on my tablet by running it from a data center and converting frames to H.264 video doesn’t seem to carry quite the same air of complexity.

The technology and the brains behind it are there. But, what remains to be seen is whether the industry giants play nicely with Mainframe2. History suggests that isn’t likely. Remember when OnLive revolutionized the entire gaming industry? Yeah, you don’t, because months after Microsoft determined OnLive was in violation of Microsoft licensing terms they filed for bankruptcy, or as they later categorized it, “restructured.”

If Mainframe2 manages to avoid the hurdles, this could be the biggest shakeup in software licensing we’ve ever seen.

Will Mainframe2 revolutionize software licensing? Would you be happy licensing software by usage? Let us know in the comments.

  • Tim

    “whilst simultaneously driving the final nail into the coffin of desktop computing.”
    Sounds like the end of print all over again. “The Web will drive the nail in the coffin of print advertising and printed materials.” Still waiting for that to happen after 15 years now.

  • Jordan Foreman

    I completely agree with Tim. Cloud computing’s crazy growth in recent years doesn’t necessarily implicate the “death of desktop computing”.

    I think my [least]favorite line from this article is “Imagine using Photoshop on your cell phone during your morning commute!”

    Please. God. No. Who actually wants to use photoshop from their cell phone? Especially a pseudo-vm’ed version running in a mobile browser. No thank you. Even if I were to shift to using something like Mainframe2 to run my desktop apps, I’d still prefer to use them from just that – a desktop – 99.9% of the time.

    I do, however, appreciate that Mainframe2 seems to want to act as a sort-of licensing proxy for overly expensive software. I have a hard time believing that companies like Adobe will ever let that become a reality, but I’d love to be proven wrong.


    Will Mainframe2 revolutionize software licensing? – Probably not
    Would you be happy licensing software by usage? – In an ideal world, that’d be an option alongside current licensing systems. Can I have my cake and eat it too?

    • Jason McGovern

      All great points Jordan. While perhaps desktop computers aren’t physically going away, think of it, if you will, as the natural evolution of moving from installing and updating your own software to working from a cloud based model. One metaphor might be something like moving from owning and maintaining your own server to an Amazon server cloud. Or way back in the day when users moved away from from desktop client based email to web based email.

      I agree with you that I would not want to create an entire Photoshop file from my smartphone, but perhaps making a slight update to a layer in a pinch could be useful. But it may not necessarily be for everyone.

      Thanks for you comments!

      • Jordan Foreman

        While I’m still not convinced about running native desktop applications through a browser, I agree that cloud based alternatives are definitely viable. It seems (to me at least) that enterprise is where cloud computing most shines, but it’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for Joe-the-average-computer-user in the future.

  • Tim

    I grew up in that world, too. Still working in it.

  • Gobi

    Sounds Good. But this needs a high-speed internet connection and heavy data usage, for which I would still consider desktop and standalone software as better choice.


    • Jason McGovern

      I’m glad you brought that up Gobi. While not mentioned in this piece, I did come across some information in my research that may surprise you. According to founder and CEO Nikola Bozinovic “even if you’re connecting from a slower network, you’ll get a great experience. You don’t need a LAN connection; if you’re connecting from 3G or 4G, it’ll optimize for that connection.”

      I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

      • nk

        Oh, C’mon. Have you ever tried to draw a bezier curve while the processor was really busy? How do you think will a slow connection optimize for realtime-operations? photoshopping is’nt click the menu here, click the button there. It’s graphic tablet, high precision position detection at realtime. Otherwise you cannot get a natural feedback on your input device.

        Btw. Adobe still hosts its application in the cloud. But they run at local your local machine. A much more realistic scenario IMHO.

  • samson

    this looks awesome, hope to get a beta key!

  • TestShoot

    i remember a Novell or other company doing a SuperBowl commercial with bank robbers complaining they need to rob banks to keep up their software and hardware costs. That never came to pass.

  • nordic material

    I really hate it when a system suggests that you save your files, projects and designs in their cloud without being very, VERY clear about terms of service agreement and intellectual property rights.

  • MIlan

    Proud to be Serb. Congrats Nikola, and good luck!

  • Xander

    What about licencing?