Microsoft turns Windows into a cloud service with Windows 365 Cloud PC

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Microsoft will make available on August 2 Windows 365 Cloud PC, a business service for running Windows 10 and 11 from data centers on PCs, tablets and other systems. Companies can adjust the configuration of systems according to use.

Companies can purchase virtual systems for employees with Windows 365 Cloud PC and pay for them per month, per user. Those users can then open Windows from an application or in the web browser. That can be on a PC, Linux system, Mac, tablet or Android device, as long as there is an internet connection, according to Microsoft. The company gives examples of users for whom this would be useful interns, externally hired workers, developers and designers.

Companies can determine how much compute, memory and storage they need per user and pay pro rata. For example, applications for analytics or where scientific calculations are required, higher system requirements could be reduced. The Cloud PC can run Windows 10 or, once this version is available at the end of this year, Windows 11. Microsoft offers two standard versions of the service with multiple configurations of the systems for both: Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.

According to Microsoft, the advantage in addition to the configurability and access from multiple device types is that users can continue their work with their Windows session where they left off, even if they switch devices. Microsoft claims ‘instant booting’, which means that Windows can be used immediately, including apps, data and settings.

As far as those apps are concerned, Microsoft promises that at least the parts of Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform will work. In addition, the company reports that software developers can continue to develop Windows apps and offer them “in the cloud.” They will be given access to APIs to take advantage of Windows 365 capabilities, but more details were not available at the time of writing. Either way, companies will get support in compatibility of their business application for the Cloud PC offering, with App Assure, which is free for customers with 150 or more users.

IT administrators get to see the virtual systems in Microsoft Endpoint Manager and here they can monitor performance and connectivity, among other things. Upgrading Cloud PCs should be a single click and without interruptions, the claim is. Windows 365 runs on Azure Virtual Desktop. That’s the service Microsoft announced as Windows Virtual Desktop for enterprise customers in 2018 and has recently been rebranded as Azure Virtual Desktop, likely to avoid confusion with Windows 365.

With Azure Virtual Desktop, Microsoft already offers a service to run Windows from its servers. Microsoft will continue to do so for customers who want more flexibility and customization options. Windows 365 is then more intended for companies that want convenience and Microsoft focuses on all types of companies, where Azure Virtual Desktop is mainly for the enterprise market. Competitors have also been offering so-called desktop-as-a-service services with Windows for some time. There are Horizon Cloud from VMware, Citrix Cloud Desktops and Amazon Workspaces.

In terms of security of Windows 365 Cloud PC, there is support for multi-factor authentication, storage and the connection are encrypted by default and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint also protects the virtual systems.

Microsoft announced Windows 365 at its Inspire event. The company will make the service available on August 2, but prices were not yet known at the time of the announcement.

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