Windows is being moved to the cloud by Microsoft. Windows 365 is a new service that allows organizations to use Cloud PCs from anywhere using a web browser and a version of Windows 10 or Windows 11. Despite the fact that virtualization and remote access to PCs have been around for more than a decade, Microsoft is banking on Windows 365 to provide Cloud PCs to organizations as they transition to a mix of office and remote work.
Users will be able to access their Cloud PC from a range of devices using any current web browser or Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app with Windows 365. According to Wangui McKelvey, a general manager for Microsoft 365, “Windows 365 gives an instant-on boot experience.” Workers can stream their Windows session across Macs, iPads, Linux workstations, and Android devices, with all of their same programs, tools, data, and preferences. McKelvey notes, “You can pick up just where you left off since the status of your Cloud PC remains the same even when you move devices.”
When Windows 365 starts on August 2nd, it will be available solely to companies and will cost a monthly subscription fee per user. Windows 365 is geared for one-person businesses all the way up to enterprises with thousands of employees, but Microsoft is not disclosing exact pricing details until the service starts next month.
Technically, Microsoft’s cloud-based Windows isn’t all that different from the plethora of virtualization options available to organizations right now. Similar technology is already available through Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop, while Citrix has been providing cloud-hosted desktop PCs for years. Microsoft is attempting to set itself apart in terms of both ease of use and management. “Windows 365 will make a tremendous impact for enterprises who wanted to explore virtualization but couldn’t because it was too expensive, too technical, or they didn’t have the ability in-house to accomplish it,” McKelvey adds.
Businesses will be able to create Cloud PCs and allocate them to employees in minutes, eliminating the need for specialized physical hardware. Many firms that hire remote workers or even temporary contract workers who need secure access to a corporate network may find this appealing. Employees don’t have to worry about VPNs or personal device security because their entire Windows PC is in the cloud.
While Windows 365 appears to be arriving at the perfect time for businesses trying to address the challenges of remote work, Microsoft has been working on it for years. Microsoft’s operating systems group had been working on a cloud-based video game streaming service codenamed “Arcadia.” Arcadia traces back to Microsoft’s 2013 demonstration of Halo running on a Windows Phone. This early virtualization work eventually led to Windows 365, which was designed with the customer in mind.
“We brought in a couple of leaders who had experience with virtualization when we built this team, but for the most part, we brought in people who had experience with Windows and consumer experiences because that was the bar we wanted to set,” Scott Manchester, director of program management for Windows 365, says.
The pandemic has hastened the development of Windows 365, as well as Microsoft’s overall focus on hybrid work. Over the last year, Microsoft has slowly improved Microsoft Teams while also laying out its vision for the future of meetings, remote work, and more.
While Windows 365 is currently only available to businesses, it’s easy to picture a future where Microsoft could provide people with more capable PC computing via a browser. Mighty is a cloud-based web browser that costs $30 a month and is designed to improve the web experience for older laptops and PCs. Windows 365 could be the first step toward a future in which you don’t need a dedicated Windows PC to run Windows.