Windows 365, a new service announced today at the Microsoft Inspire conference, is basically an unintentional riff on the Yo Dawg meme: Microsoft put Windows in the cloud so you can use a Windows computer while using your computer. used. you can just call it a cloud PC, as Microsoft does. It’s basically an easy-to-use virtual machine that lets you install your own Windows 10 (and ultimately Windows 11) on any device, be it a Mac, iPad, Linux device, or Android tablet. Xzibit would be proud.
Although Windows 365 doesn’t come out of nowhere – rumors about a kind of Microsoft cloud PC effort been spinning for months – its full scope is still surprising. It builds on Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop service, which also allows tech-savvy people to run their own virtual PCs, but makes the whole process of managing a Windows installation on a distant server much easier. You just need to Windows365.com when it launches on August 2, choose a virtual machine configuration and you’re good to go. (Unfortunately, we don’t yet know how much the service will cost, but Microsoft says it will reveal the final price on August 1.)
Windows 365 probably won’t mean much to most consumers, but it could be life-changing for IT departments and small businesses. Instead of managing local Windows installations on expensive notebooks, IT people can now get by with simpler hardware that leverages a scalable cloud. Windows 365 installations can be configured at launch with up to eight virtual CPUs, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage. Microsoft is also exploring ways to leverage dedicated GPU power for more demanding users, said Scott Manchester, the director of Program Management for Windows 365.
Smaller businesses, meanwhile, could set up Windows 365 instances for use by their handful of employees on shared devices. And instead of dragging a work device home, any Windows 365 user can safely jump back to their virtual desktops from their home PC or tablet via the web or Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app. During a brief demo of Windows 365, running apps and browsing the web didn’t seem much different than on a local PC. It’s also fast enough to stream video without noticeable artifacts, Manchester says. (Microsoft also uses technology that can display streaming video on a local machine, which it eventually transfers to your Cloud PC.) You can also revert your Cloud PC to previous states, which would come in handy if you ever accidentally delete important files. .
While the idea for Windows 365 emerged long before the pandemic, over the past year Microsoft employees have learned firsthand how useful a cloud PC can be. They used a tool intended for hybrid work — where you can easily switch between office or remote work — while stuck at home during the pandemic.
But why develop Windows 365 when Azure Virtual Desktop already exists? Manchester tells us that Microsoft found that as many as 80 percent of AVD customers relied on third-party vendors to help manage their installations. “In the end, they were looking to Microsoft as a one-stop shop for them to get all the services they need,” he said.
That statistic is not very surprising. Operating system virtualization has been a useful local tool for developers for the past few decades, but it has usually been a bit too difficult for regular users to manage on their own. And while a tool like Azure Virtual Desktop took it to the cloud (Manchester assures us it’s not going anywhere either), it’s even harder to manage.
One thing Windows 365 doesn’t mean, at least right now, is the end of traditional computing. “I think we’re still going to have great client PC experiences,” Melissa Grant, director of Product Marketing for Windows 365, said in an interview. “You know we have a relationship with our laptops. It’s our kind of home and hub for our computing experience. What we want to offer with Windows 365 is the ability to have the same familiar and consistent Windows experience on other devices.”
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