- Windows 365 is a new service that allows businesses to access Cloud PCs from any location by streaming a version of Windows 10 or Windows 11 in a web browser.
- Windows 365 will be accessible via any modern web browser or Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app, allowing users to access their Cloud PC from a variety of devices.
- Microsoft has already provided similar technology with Azure Virtual Desktop.
Windows 365 is a new service that allows businesses to access Cloud PCs from any location by streaming a version of Windows 10 or Windows 11 in a web browser. While virtualization and remote access to PCs have been available for more than a decade, Microsoft is banking on Windows 365 to provide Cloud PCs to businesses as they transition to a hybrid of office and remote work.
Features of Windows 365
Windows 365 will be accessible via any modern web browser or Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app, allowing users to access their Cloud PC from a variety of devices. According to Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365, “Windows 365 provides an instant-on boot experience.” This instant access enables workers to stream their Windows session across Macs, iPads, Linux machines, and Android devices, retaining all of their apps, tools, data, and settings. “You can pick up right where you left off because the state of your Cloud PC remains constant even when you switch devices,” McKelvey explains.
When it launches on August 2nd, Windows 365 will be available only for businesses, with a per-user monthly subscription fee. Microsoft is not disclosing specific pricing details until the service launches next month, but Windows 365 is intended for one-person businesses up to enterprises with thousands of employees.
Windows 365 will be available in two editions: Business and Enterprise. Individual Cloud PCs can be configured with a single CPU, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage at the low end, all the way up to eight CPUs, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage using Azure Virtual Desktop. For both Windows 365 Business and Enterprise, Microsoft is offering 12 distinct configurations, and organizations will be able to expand computing capacity, so there will be plenty of possibilities.
Technically, Microsoft offering Windows in the cloud isn’t much different from the plethora of options that businesses already have with virtualization. Microsoft has already provided similar technology with Azure Virtual Desktop, and Citrix has provided cloud-hosted desktop PCs for many years. Microsoft is attempting to differentiate itself in terms of both ease of use and management. “Windows 365 is going to make a huge difference for organizations that wanted to try virtualization but couldn’t because it was too expensive, too complex, or they didn’t have the expertise in-house to do it,” McKelvey says.
Businesses will be able to create Cloud PCs and assign them to employees in minutes, eliminating the need for dedicated physical hardware. That could be appealing to many businesses that hire remote workers or temporary contract employees who need to securely access a corporate network. Employees do not need to navigate VPNs or worry about security on personal devices because their entire Windows PC is in the cloud.
While Windows 365 appears to be coming at the perfect time for businesses looking to tackle the complexities of remote work, Microsoft has been working on the service for years. Microsoft’s operating systems group had been working on a project codenamed “Arcadia,” a cloud-based video game streaming service. Arcadia dates all the way back to 2013 when Microsoft demonstrated Halo running on a Windows Phone. This early virtualization work resulted in Windows 365 and a focus on making it more user-friendly.
Director of program management for Windows 365, Scott Manchester’s Verdicts
“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 experience with consumer experiences because that was the bar we wanted to set,” says Scott Manchester, director of program management for Windows 365.
The pandemic accelerated the development of Windows 365, as well as Microsoft’s broader emphasis on hybrid work. Over the last year, Microsoft has been steadily improving Microsoft Teams and 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 imagine a future in which Microsoft could offer more powerful PC computing to consumers directly in a browser. Mighty, a startup is offering a $30-per-month cloud-based web browser designed to provide a better web experience on older laptops and PCs. Windows 365 may be the first significant step toward a future in which you do not require a dedicated Windows PC to use Windows.