LiquidSky: Play PC games on Android via the cloud

LiquidSky, a start-up co-founded by a university drop-out, may have just killed the high-end gaming and business PC market.

Pay a subscription and you get your own high-spec Windows PC (SkyComputer) in the cloud. The PC can be accessed on a range of devices from Dh400 netbooks to a 2011 Macbook and even on an Android smartphone or tablet. “Access your SkyComputer from any device and play with ultra low latency and high performance graphics,” says the company’s website.

How does LiquidSky work?

After downloading the application on a PC, Mac or Android device, you get one day of free usage. Then, download your pick of Windows games and programs. After that, download and install the app “in seconds with lightning internet speed”.

The game (say, BioShock) is run on custom-built IBM LiquidSky servers and streamed to your device. You don’t even need a graphics card, because the computers run on Nvidia graphics cards (Speaking of Nvidia, this may harm the company’s hardware prospects). Essentially, all your device needs is good Wi-Fi and the ability to play video.

Here’s an example of the service in action:

LiquidSky promises that its compression algorithms deliver the best graphics at the lowest latency levels. Latency is the slowdown that causes lag when gaming online. You can choose 720p or 1080p resolution with 30 FPS or 60+ FPS on your device.

While the start-up says it provides the lowest latency levels around, the website does explain that for best performance you should be located within 500km of one of its global data centres. It adds that latency should still be acceptably low if you’re within 1,500km.

Unfortunately, the UAE is nearly 3,000km from the nearest data centre: the south Indian city of Chennai. It seems we’ll have to wait a bit to enjoy the best of this service.

Remote desktop vs desktop as a service

At first glance, this may appear to be a simple remote desktop service. However, the difference between that and desktop-as-a-service (or DaaS, which is how LiquidSky describes it) is that you are still reliant on your home or office PC when you operate it remotely. This works in a similar fashion but uses ultra-high-end hardware that would cost you a lot of money.

Imagine remote desktop and DaaS as two buildings. They share the same foundations, but the construction materials and resources available to the latter vastly outshines the former, at a cheaper price.

Non-gaming applications

It need not be all fun and games. Graphic designers, architects, CIOs and even video game developers can build and test their products without needing to invest in a high-spec liquid-cooled PC. Photoshop, After Effects, 3d Studio Max, as well as a host of CAD applications can be run on the SkyComputer.

LiquidSky price plans

LiquidSky says it has 400,000 users, an impressive figure given that the service hasn’t advertised.

LiquidSky price plans
The price really depends on your usage – data consumed is also based on the specs at which you choose to play games

Playing the best games at the highest specs as much as you like will set you back $40 (Dh167) a month. We’ve reviewed the highest-spec gaming laptops that cost Dh20,000.

You can request beta access for a free one-day trial on the start-up’s website, but bear in mind that there’s a long queue – I need to wait about 77 days to try it out. However, if you refer three people to sign up, you can skip the queue.

Given the lack of available nearby servers, I’m personally choosing to wait.