At the Microsoft Inspire 2021 Partner Conference, Microsoft officially unveiled Windows 365, its new cloud service that will allow businesses to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 in the cloud. Specifically, Windows 365 brings the operating system to the Microsoft Smart Cloud and streams it to deliver a smooth and complete Windows experience, including apps, data and Settings, on personal or corporate devices. The service will be available to businesses from August 2, 2021.

What is Windows 365?

The launch of Windows 365 shows Microsoft’s focus on hybrid work at a time when many companies are switching to a mix of office work and remote work.

According to Microsoft, Windows 365 is a “zero-trust” service designed to ensure security at the source and to store and secure information in the cloud rather than on the device. Windows 365 services usher in a new hybrid personal computing category called Cloud PC, which combines the power of Cloud computing with the power of the device to build a complete, personalized Windows experience.

Windows 365 runs on any modern Web browser or through Microsoft’s Remote Desktop app, allowing users to access the Cloud PC from a variety of devices. Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365, said Windows 365 offers a just-in-time boot experience where users can transfer apps, tools, data and Settings from the cloud to Macs, iPads, Linux machines and Android devices. “You can pick up where you left off last time, because the state of the Cloud PC remains the same even if you switch devices,” McKelvey explained.

Windows 365 transfers Windows streaming to a Web browser.

“With Windows 365, we’ve created a whole new category: Cloud PCs,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft. Just as we brought applications to the cloud in a SaaS way, we now bring operating systems to the cloud, which will provide organizations with a more flexible and secure way to work, allowing employees to stay connected wherever they are, and better unleashing productivity.”

There are two versions of Windows 365: Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise. Both are supported by Azure virtual desktops, with a single Cloud PC with a minimum of one CPU, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and a maximum of eight CPUs, 32GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. In addition, Microsoft is offering 12 different configurations for these two versions of Windows 365, and businesses will have multiple options.

What’s so cool about Windows 365?

Technically, Microsoft’s offer of Windows in the cloud isn’t that different from the virtualization options now available to enterprises. Microsoft already offers similar technology through Azure Virtual Desktop, and Citrix has been offering cloud-hosted desktop PCs for years. Microsoft is trying to differentiate itself from other products in terms of ease of use and manageability. McKelvey said that for organizations that want to try virtualization for a variety of reasons but haven’t been able to do so, Windows 365 can really make a big difference.

According to Microsoft, Windows 365 can make businesses feel more secure in three ways:

  • Powerful. Launching Cloud PC instantly enables users to transfer applications, tools, data and Settings to any device from the Cloud. Windows 365 provides a full PC experience in the cloud, while cloud computing provides versatility in processing power and storage, allowing IT personnel to expand or reduce capacity on demand. With Windows 365 supporting Windows 10 and Windows 11 (effective when it becomes commercially available in late 2021), organizations can choose a suitable Cloud PC and charge on a per-user/per-month basis.
  • Easy to manage. Cloud PC allows users to log in across devices and continue work that has not been done before, bringing a simplified, familiar, cloud-based Windows experience. For IT personnel, Windows 365 also simplifies deployment, update, and administration — unlike other solutions, Windows 365 requires no virtualization experience. With Windows 365’s Endpoint optimizations, IT personnel can easily help their organizations purchase, deploy, and manage Cloud PCs just as they manage physical PCs through Microsoft Endpoint Manager. SMEs can also purchase Windows 365 directly or through a Cloud service provider and complete their organization’s Cloud PC setup with a simple click. Microsoft will also continue to innovate with Azure Virtual Desktop to help organizations that have deep virtualization experience and need more customization and flexibility options.
  • Safety protection. With the power of Microsoft’s Smart Cloud and the “zero trust” principle, Windows 365 is designed to ensure security from the start. The information is protected and stored in the cloud, not on the device. Windows 365 is always up to date, while building on Microsoft’s rich security features and benchmarks, enhancing security and simplifying administration, and recommending the best security Settings based on the user’s environment.

In addition, companies can create Cloud PCs and assign them to employees in minutes, eliminating the need for specialized physical hardware. This can be attractive to businesses that need remote workers or even temporary contractors who need secure access to a company’s network. The entire Windows PC is in the cloud, so employees don’t have to worry about the security of their personal devices.

An enterprise can create a Cloud PC in minutes

Windows 365 is currently only available for businesses, but it’s not hard to imagine a future in which Microsoft delivers more powerful PC computing directly to consumers in the browser. Windows 365 could be an important step toward a future where you can use Windows without having to use a dedicated Windows PC.

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