‘Windows from the cloud’: Microsoft announces new virtual PC service

15 Jul 2021

Image: © greenbutterfly/Stock.adobe.com

By simplifying the Azure virtualisation experience, Windows 365 will host virtual PCs for organisations that lack in-house expertise.

Microsoft unveiled a new, streamlined virtual PC service for the world of remote working yesterday (14 July).

Windows 365 will be available from 2 August for organisations of any size, allowing them to equip their workforce with computers regardless of their location.

While Microsoft already operates the Azure remote desktop virtualisation service, Windows 365 was designed for a simplified experience.

Microsoft recommended that Azure is still the way to go for companies looking for increased customisation and flexibility. But for those without the in-house expertise to set up Azure, Windows 365 is touted as handling all of the details for users.

The service comes equipped with the ability to monitor power and performance of the virtual PCs, alongside connection analytics so no employee is locked out of what they need to access.

Users will first select Windows 10 or Windows 11 (once it is out later this year) as their operating system. They will then choose a configuration of processing power, storage and memory that suits their needs.

Afterwards, they’ll be able to access their cloud PC through a native application or web browser from anywhere with an internet connection on any device, including Macs, iPads, and Linux or Android devices.

“Windows 365 is really going to make a huge difference for organisations that wanted to try virtualisation for various reasons but could not. Maybe it was too costly, too complex or they didn’t have the expertise in house to do it,” said Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365.

She added that with Windows 365 IT administrators can manage and deploy cloud PCs using the same tools they use today to manage physical PCs.

Scott Manchester, director of programme management for Windows 365, highlighted that it was paramount to keep the look and feel of a traditional PC in the design of the cloud-based PC service.

“You want them to be able to get access to their corporate resources, applications, databases and HR tools, and do all the things they do in a typical workday sitting in the office. You want them to have that same experience,” he said.

“We’re giving you Windows from the cloud.”

The idea of remotely logging onto a PC fits into Microsoft’s larger post-pandemic goal of enabling a hybrid workforce. Existing products such as Microsoft Teams are designed to slot into this new service to create a flexibility for companies and workers.

“I think this will be interesting for those organisations who, for whatever reason, have shied away from virtualisation. This is giving them an opportunity to try it in a way that their regular, everyday endpoint admin could manage,” McKelvey said.

Organisations will be able to choose the size of the cloud PC that is closest to their needs with per user per month pricing.

There will be two editions available on launch, Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise. Each will have cloud-based offerings with multiple performance configurations for the virtual PCs.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news