The Rise of Browser-Based Content Isn’t the Death of Computer Hardware

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Featured image: 06-08-09” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by blisschan

Look through your old PC and you’ll probably see a graveyard of disused software that has not only fallen out of favour but also out of functionality. Instead of downloading and running software from our desktops, we’re moving increasingly towards online, browser-based options. Through a combination of HTML5, enriched content and web apps, the days of installing large files on your computer and living in your own little world are slowly starting to fade.

In fact, we could point to some of the more recent hardware developments as evidence of this move towards a more browser-based approach to accessing services and information. Take, for instance, the new BX300 series of SSD products from Crucial. Like all SSDs, speed and stability are the key benefits over a traditional hard drive. However, when you consider that current storage options are 120GB, 240GB and 480GB, you can see that the capacity isn’t there to store a lot of information compared to a hard drive. Of course, you can get larger SSDs, but the price is still prohibitive for the average user.

Fortunately, this decrease in storage size doesn’t matter too much because many programs are now online. Moreover, cloud servers mean that users don’t have to save large files to their system any more. Dropbox is the obvious example with users afforded 2GB for free and a further 1TB for £6.50 a month. Beyond this, Google Drive gives you 15GB free and up to 100GB for around £1.59 per month. Because these options are now affordable for the average user, it means that netbooks using SSDs have become a more viable option. Moreover, it’s made it possible for laptop and PC manufacturers to shift focus from their hard drives and bring SSDs alongside them in order to create a faster machine.

Gaming Goes Online

Screenshot – Mr. Bree (Adventure, Platfo” (CC BY 2.0) by Mind Erasure

As you’d expect, it’s not just storage options that have caused a move towards browser-based operations. Across the spectrum, you’ll now find companies and services of all shapes and sizes offering web-based apps on web-based platforms. For example, when you look at Kongregate, there are more than 117,000 games such as Cosmos Quest by GaiaByte and Realm Grinder by DivineGames. Indeed, even though the company announced a $10 million (£7.6 million) PC and console publishing fund in 2017, CEO Emily Greer said that the company was actually increasing investment in its mobile and browser provisions. Given the changing nature of the market, Greer believes that giving players access to content across multiple platforms is necessary. This is something that’s also popular in the online casino world. When online casinos first came to prominence in the early noughties, servers and online web pages weren’t sophisticated enough to house large gaming suites. That meant players were required to download software in order to play. Today, however, thanks to the advent of HTML5 and scalable web software, players have the choice between desktop, online and mobile platforms when playing casino titles. This has led to more games being made available to more users across more platforms, much like content in the PC/console gaming world.

Streams Wash Away Native Content

Spotify” (CC BY 2.0) by computerjoe

Beyond the gaming industry, streaming sites have made video content, both live and recorded, more accessible. Indeed, before Netflix offered a streaming service, burning DVDs or downloading content to your hard drive (internal and external) was the norm. Similarly, when it came to music, iTunes and the like may have made music more accessible, but the system still required you to download content to your computer. Today, Netflix has more than 100 million subscribers who all have the power to watch the latest movies and TV shows via their PC, laptop or mobile without having to download any content. Of course, as these titles are streamed to viewers, they are stored as temporary files, but they are only temporary. Beyond Netflix, Spotify and Deezer allow users to stream music without having to download thousands of songs. In fact, what’s useful about a platform such as Spotify is that it offers a hybrid storage system. For those with a premium membership, it’s possible to listen to music “offline” via your mobile. Although you download the content directly from Spotify’s servers, the song isn’t stored directly inside your mobile. Instead, the song is available in the Spotify app when you’re offline, but it’s not available anywhere else on your phone. The file is there, but you can’t access it outside the app. In simple terms, if you delete the app, you also delete the offline content. This system essentially means that each track takes up less storage space which, in turn, allows you to make more songs available offline.

A Hybrid Approach to Content Consumption

My desk” (CC BY 2.0) by robscomputer

So, if it’s the case that content is moving online, surely we don’t need powerful PCs and motherboards like the RAMPAGE VI APEX from ASUS ROG? Well, the answer is somewhere in the middle. Although we’re now accessing more online content than ever before, it seems as though a fusion of the two worlds is the best solution. If we circle back to the gaming world, players can now install games on their PC and then access additional content online. For example, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs 2 allows players to enhance their “offline” experience by using certain checkpoints to unlock extra content online. A very basic example of this is the wardrobe option which allows players to connect to the online store and find outfits not available in the offline game. This dual system is why gamers need devices that are fast but also capable of storing large amounts of data. For instance, the Rampage VI’s 7th generation Intel® Core™ X-Series processor is great for ensuring content is processed efficiently when a player goes online. Nowadays, with the exception of highly specialised professional software, it’s our browsers who use the most RAM and processor power – and often GPU, because of the potential for better graphics. Therefore, in addition to this, a memory addon such as the HyperX Savage is also useful because it means that your browser is capable of handling more tabs and heavier web apps.

This, in reality, is the state of the market today. Although online content is become ever-more sophisticated, it’s not the end for desktop software. While it’s true the goalposts may continue to move towards pure online content, a hybrid system appears to be the order of the day at this point in time. Because of this, hardware considerations aren’t going to be a thing of the past just yet.

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