“That doesn’t mean it will point you to some functional mobile web version of the app – “streamed” apps are actually running on virtual machines on Google’s cloud platform, and respond to your taps and touches similar to how native applications do,” Sarah Perez wrote in Techcrunch.
Rajan Patel, principal engineer at Google, also said via Techcrunch, “The app loads in a virtual machine on Google’s cloud platform, and the client – the Google app that runs on your phone – sends up the touch interactions to the cloud machine. And that cloud machine executes those touch interactions, renders the app and sends the pixels back down to the client”
But while the focus here is on search and Google’s fight to retain dominance, streaming apps represents the next step in how software technology evolves and is accessed. In other words, there is no need for the law of diminishing returns in the mobile device hardware war when all the processing is done in the cloud. It’s natural for consumers to gush over technical specs but technology is almost coming full circle; we could potentially be moving back towards “dumb terminals” that just relay information rather than process it.
"The rise of services that can be accessed anywhere over the Internet, as opposed to on one device, is leading to a new wave: the feed-based OS. This OS can tap any number of cloud services through federated APIs." – James Higa, Index Ventures
Streaming apps and even an operating system which aggregate multiple apps and that can be accessed anywhere over the Internet across devices may very well represent a new phase of computing which is heading our way. We are seeing signs of this with Microsoft Continuum for example, but what Google is potentially doing is wrapping its search engine around this as a diversionary tactic to prove that it could work at scale.
The service is available only to a handful of apps at the moment, but if successful I believe a future version of Android, and a future Pixel mobile device that replaces the Nexus line (note: I see Pixel as a cohesive and strategic brand in the same way Surface is for Microsoft) will pave the way for an option where a user no longer has to download and run apps natively on the device.
And this puts Google back in control of not only search data, but any and all data running on Android. And thats an entirely different conversation indeed.