According to Mustafa Abdelhai, co-founder and CEO of Deta, this is how your computer should work. Instead of a giant empty screen full of icons, your desktop should be an infinite canvas on which you may draw a rectangle to jot notes, watch movies, or run whole apps. Instead of logging in to a slew of cloud services over which you ultimately have no control, you should be able to download software in the same way that PC users did 20 years ago, and the software you download should be entirely yours. All of your apps should communicate with one another so that you can transfer data between them and enjoy the functionality of many apps at the same time. You should be able to accomplish practically anything with AI.
And everything should take place in a browser tab.
Deta, based in Berlin, has spent the last few years developing what it refers to as “the personal cloud computer.” According to Abdelhai, the software Deta is unveiling today is called Space OS, and it is the first step towards putting the personal back in the personal computer. “Personal computing took a dive at the turn of the century,” he recalls when cloud computing became the big thing. We all moved to the cloud, relocated our data, and we no longer own it. It’s just another person’s computer.” Deta wishes to return it.
To a considerable extent, the phrase “personal cloud computer” sounds like an oxymoron. A computer that only you can view, access, or shut down… that is hosted on someone else’s servers and requires a username and password to access. After all, Deta, like everyone else, keeps your data on AWS. In some ways, Deta is creating the very thing it is attempting to avoid — the firm is simply hoping to establish a large enough platform with user-friendly regulations to make it viable. But, I know, it is what it is. “It is in the cloud,” he says. “So it is managed by somebody.”
The concept of a streaming computer, in which all of your data is stored online and you can interact with “your PC” from any device that has a screen and a web connection, is not novel. For one thing, that’s Google’s long-term aim for Chromebooks. Companies like Shadow attempted to stream complete Windows desktops, only to discover that it is a hugely complicated and expensive endeavor. (Does streaming lag when you move your mouse? It’s a bad time.) Microsoft launched the Cloud PC in 2021, predicting that it would forever revolutionize the way we operate. We discovered this year that the corporation is still highly committed to that vision.
That’s all well and good, but Abdelhai believes that “Windows on the Internet” is too narrow a vision. “We wanted to bring personal computers to the cloud,” explains Abdelhai. “That doesn’t mean we reinvented Windows; it means we really needed a new way of thinking.” Data intends to use this transition to rethink apps, modify our attitude to privacy and data storage, and transform our gadgets from a collection of segregated programs into something more fluid and engaging.
The simplest approach to explain how Space OS works is probably to simply teach you how to use it. When you initially create an account, you are dumped into Horizon, an unlimited canvas with a dot grid. You can add anything to that grid by simply drawing rectangles with your mouse. Add a text box to take notes; add icons to open the apps you care about; embed YouTube videos or links to websites; and ask Teletype, Space OS’s built-in AI chatbot, to create an app for you. Horizon setup is comparable to that of your phone’s home screen, but Space OS is far more configurable. And it’s all made up of interactive widgets.
Following that, the first stop is Discovery, Deta’s app store. WebCrate, a simple bookmarking service; Minima, a note-taking application; Filebox, a file-storage system; Black Hole, a photo host; and Temper, a simple website builder, may all be downloaded from this page. When you choose “Install App,” Space OS adds the application to your own cloud. However, it does not establish an account on someone else’s server; instead, it downloads the code and puts it in your Deta cloud so that it can continue to operate even if the app is finally removed.
You can currently access Space OS by going to the URL of your cloud. (Every user receives an unappealing alphanumeric Deta URL, although this is being addressed.) According to Abdelhai, Deta intends to heavily rely on progressive web apps in order to execute apps locally and even offline – this is the company’s future more than constructing a browser, a native app, or even its own hardware. “We’re working on making it feel like your personal computer,” he said. “We want to move to this computer within the next five years.” Then you can simply use Chromebooks or anything.”
Your Deta cloud is really two things: an encrypted storage location for your data and a collection of virtual computers that spin up to operate your various apps. “Every app runs completely on your personal cloud,” adds Abdelhai. “Right now, if you use another person’s software, they will have access to your data.” We make certain that these apps run on your personal cloud.” According to Abdelhai, the essentials are free, but you must pay for additional capabilities and storage.
When I asked Abdelhai why users should choose Deta over their other cloud services, he mentioned two reasons: the business model and the tools. “You can delete your app, you can export your data, you can delete your space as well.” All of your data is protected, you may download all of your apps’ source code, and Deta does not sell adverts or make money off of your data. “We have a lot of incentives that protect you and deliver on our promise.” It’s a very modern conundrum: utilizing the internet necessitates trusting someone, so all you can do is choose the one whose motivations align with your own.
Everything in Space OS is currently quite basic. There are no new apps that are really compelling, and no compelling reason to abandon your computer and begin living the Space life. (However, I must agree that the canvas-as-homescreen concept is brilliant.) Much of the interface appears to have been built as a proof of concept rather than a commercial product. All of this is agreed upon by Abdelhai. Deta thinks it’s still early, and there’s a lot of work to be done. But he is certain that the fundamental concept is correct: a personal, interoperable, AI-powered operating system is what the world requires next.
The developer platform is the most important item for Deta to get right right away. The company is attempting to make it ridiculously simple to produce and sell apps in order to persuade developers to switch to a new platform. Developers can integrate with the Teletype AI, create web-only apps, and use Deta’s App Actions mechanism to interact with everything else in Space OS. According to Abdelhai, 70,000 developers are already creating on Deta, with many more expected soon.
Abdelhai believes Deta will be particularly useful for productivity tools. Imagine if your Google Docs, Notion, Figma, and Slack accounts could all share data and communicate with one another, he argues – that’s the Space OS dream. (A few well-known productivity programs are currently running on Deta’s platform.) “Software is stiff,” explains Abdelhai. “We like breaking down apps into smaller chunks so they can work together.” Currently, each app we use is a universe unto itself; Deta seeks to transform software into tools in a toolbox. He believes that if it succeeds, it might be a gaming platform, a creative tool, and much more.
Along the way, the corporation must address the remaining unanswered questions about Space OS. What is the game-changing app? How can you persuade users to run their entire lives from your servers when part of what people are seeking to avoid is that dynamic? What happens to users’ clouds if Deta fails or goes out of business?
Deta’s concept is both novel and traditional. It harkens back to the early days of computing, when software was purchased in a box from a store and installed on your computer. Of course, the cloud age made computing much easier and more powerful, but it also gradually eroded the notion that you could control anything on your devices. Actually, it’s an intriguing thinking experiment: if every cloud service went down tomorrow, what would be left on your phone or laptop? The chances are slim. Deta is attempting to undo some of that, to embrace the cloud and the vast world of apps while restoring your sense that your computer — and everything on it — is yours and no one else’s. Because your computer should be yours, even if it is hosted on someone else’s server.