TL; DR: Shadow makes it possible for gamers to access the resources of a high-speed PC from any internet-connected device. The result is a cheaper, faster, and more flexible user experience that is entirely independent of one’s hardware. Ultimately, Shadow’s vision is to transform the way consumers around the world think about computers by shifting value from the device to the datacenter.
After months of quarantine, your favorite first-person shooter game has become a much-needed digital escape. Today, itching for a win, you’ve carefully positioned your character behind cover, waiting for the right opportunity to exploit the opposing team’s mistakes.
Suddenly, you realize your computer isn’t responding to your keystrokes, no matter how hard you pound the keyboard. By the time your device snaps out of the lag, you’ve been discovered — and destroyed — by your enemy. Game over.
Should you curse the 10-year-old PC that you can’t afford to replace? Probably. After that, you may want to check out Shadow — the first high-performance computer accessible from any device connected to the internet.
Using the Shadow app, available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, gamers can transform nearly all of their devices, including smartphones, smart TVs, tablets, and Macs, into a powerful, cloud-based Windows 10 PC.
“Proper gaming computers can cost up to $3,000, they’re complex, and they become obsolete every two or three years,” said Florian Giraud, Shadow’s Head of Strategy and Growth. “At Shadow, we take care of the renewal of the components so you don’t have to. You can turn everything from a MacBook Air to a smart TV into a gaming computer.”
The innovative solution is essentially a full-featured cloud PC with dedicated storage that gamers can access from any device, at any time. The idea is to make access to a powerful, low-latency gaming PC easier and more affordable than ever before while taking flexibility to a whole new level with a bring-your-own-game approach and customization options.
A Cheaper, More Accessible Gaming Experience
Shadow was created in 2015 by Founders Emmanuel Freund, Stéphane Heliot, and Asher Kagan, who set out to shape the future of computing by inventing the PC of tomorrow.
“They realized from past experience that it no longer made any sense to have all of the computing power you need on your device since you can have it in the cloud,” Florian said. “By bypassing the challenge of miniaturization, you had the potential for unlimited power, storage, et cetera.”
The concept also made sense from an ecological perspective. By transferring processing power to datacenters and taking advantage of high-speed internet, the founders knew they could slow the waste caused by hardware obsolescence.
Doing so wasn’t easy: Instant streaming of a high-speed computer is far more complex than your average Netflix or Spotify technology.
The Shadow team devoted significant time to research and design to ensure the best image quality at any given time. Together with its user community in France, Shadow improved upon the beta version until the company was confident enough to release the product to the public in 2017. The service then quickly expanded throughout Europe and the U.S.
Today, Shadow is the first high-end computer completely free of hardware constraints. This means gamers no longer have to pay for a supercharged gaming computer to explore the latest digital adventures. Instead, they can turn nearly any device they own into a Windows 10 PC using the resources in Shadow’s always updated datacenters.
Users can transfer their games, progress, and achievements from software platforms and digital storefronts like Epic Games Store, GOG, Origin, Uplay, and Steam, among others, or install new ones.
Overcoming Challenges for a Broader Market
Florian told us that gaming was the perfect use case with which to test out its technology for the future of computing. After all, they’re the ones who tend to view latency as the difference between (digital) life and death.
“We chose gaming as the first use case for our machine because gamers need power to achieve their goals and have high demands in terms of latency — they want the machine to do what they direct it to do with no exceptions,” he said.
In the long term, Shadow’s goal is not just to compete with the makers of gaming hardware, but with PC manufacturers as a whole.
The company’s value proposition is crystal clear in that respect: If Shadow can produce a full-featured cloud PC with enough power to keep gamers happy, that speaks wonders for its ability to stream less demanding content, such as movies.
“We knew that if we could convince gamers that we are inventing the computer of the future, then we could convince anyone,” Florian said.
Taking Gaming Flexibility to a Whole New Level
In addition to lower costs and more power, Shadow’s goal is to provide users with the freedom to play without platform-based restrictions. That way, you don’t have to run the risk of being restricted to a certain selection of games while your gaming circle moves on to the hottest new thing since Fortnite.
“There are no limits in terms of when you can access Shadow or what games you can play, because any game that is available on a PC is available on Shadow,” Florian said. “That’s the full freedom of the PC approach we took — users are in no way locked into our ecosystem.”
Users can also leverage Shadow’s power to run other demanding software, such as Photoshop. The company currently offers an introductory Boost plan with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for a low monthly fee.
Customers can sign up to be on a waiting list for the company’s upcoming Ultra and Infinite plans, which will feature additional memory and storage.
“All of our plans are extremely powerful in terms of computing power, but we will have three offers featuring different configurations,” Florian said.
In addition to a subscription, all users need is a low-cost device and a minimum internet speed of 15 Mbps. For the best possible experience, Shadow recommends using an Ethernet connection or a 5GHz wifi connection.
The Vision: To Shift Value from Devices to the Datacenter
Florian said Shadow is currently testing early-stage options for streaming games in virtual reality lenses, which would untether users from cords that cause mobility limitations.
“But we don’t want to do it behind closed doors in some secret lab and release it out of the blue,” he said. “We know that if we want to be successful like we were with Shadow, we need to work closely with the community. We are on a collective exploration that provides us with a powerful way to design and release features.”
Virtual reality is the company’s next frontier, but ultimately, Shadow’s vision is to move value from hardware to the datacenter, improving accessibility to computing innovations worldwide.
“We think this is the way the computing industry is going, and we are proud to be working with our communities to pioneer this space,” Florian said.