What Is Windows 365?
After spending the best part of a decade telling us that there will never be another version of Windows after Windows 10, Microsoft has this year performed a u-turn and announced that Windows 11 would be with us shortly. It turns out that isn't all that the company was hiding up its substantial sleeve. There's also something called "Windows 365" on its way - and it's due to become available to users next month. What is Windows 365, though - and more importantly, why should you care?
There's both a long way and a short way to answer that question. The short way is to say that Windows 365 is a cloud-based personal desktop available to you at all times, no matter where you are in the world or what device you're using. The long way is to say that it's the culmination of something that Microsoft has been working on for a very long time. This project was once known as "Deschutes" and more recently as "Cloud PC." The name "Windows 365" has come along very late in the development process and is now the name it will come to the market with.
If you're technically-minded and have experience of working remotely, you might be wondering what the big deal is. It's been possible to gain remote access to a PC through Windows Virtual Desktop and Azure Virtual Desktop for years. Microsoft's answer to that is that Windows 365 will do away with the need to interact with an Azure portal - or indeed any portal at all - when you want to remotely access files or apps. Instead, it will be a live service that effectively gives you access to a cloud-based PC wherever you are at the click of a single button - with the key difference being that the PC doesn't physically exist anywhere. You're not dialling into your work PC from your laptop at home - you're dialling into a PC that exists only in the cloud. Internally, Microsoft refers to this idea as "desktop as a service."
While this is a brave new frontier for Microsoft, the company lags behind other technology giants when it comes to implementing cloud-based content and providing near-universal access to it. It arrived in the world of video gaming in 2019 when Google launched "Stadia," which allows gamers to play the latest console games without the need to own a console or physical copies of any of the games. It could also be compared to Netflix, which provides access to thousands of television shows and movies without the need to own any DVDs or a DVD player. This is another example of the ever-increasing speed of the internet, making it feasible to do away with hardware and instead rely on software installed and operated on remote servers.
In truth, the idea goes back even further than that and began in a somewhat unlikely place. In the late 1990s, the first live casino website was invented. The link between casino games and physical casinos vanished overnight with the launch of the first online slots website. In the here and now, online slots websites are everywhere and have become the most popular way to play casino games. People don't need to dress up and head into town for casino entertainment when they can stay at home and play Online Slots IE instead. That simple idea gave birth to Netflix, which subsequently gave birth to services like Stadia, and now we’ve arrived at the age of cloud-based personal computing.
Microsoft hopes that the chief appeal of Windows 365 will be its adaptability and almost ubiquitous accessibility. Differences between hardware will no longer be relevant, and nor will differences between processor capacity and hard disc space. Whether the internet-enabled device you use to access Windows 365 is a Mac, a PC, or a tablet or phone, you'll be able to access Windows 365. Whether your native device runs on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, or even Linux, you'll be able to access Windows 365. Whenever you do, you'll find an interface that looks and works the same way. You'll even find all of your files in the same place, and any apps and windows you left open the last time you used the service still open - even if you're switching between numerous devices. No matter how you access Windows 365, the state of your cloud-based PC will remain the same because it exists in isolation.
Before you get carried away thinking this would be a neat idea for all your personal computer needs, there’s a catch. Initially, Windows 365 will only be available for business customers. The company has chosen to launch the service now because the growing number of people working remotely is expected to double within the next twelve months, and they want to focus on that trend. Because it’s a business product, it will also come with a cost. Costs haven’t been listed yet, but we expect to see a tier of prices based on what level of performance you want from your cloud PC. 32GB of RAM will cost more than 16GB of RAM. 512GB of storage will cost more than 64GB of storage. The more you want to do with Windows 365, the more it’s likely to cost you. It’s likely that the service will eventually become available for personal use, but only if it proves to be a hit with business users.
While other cloud-PC services exist, Microsoft hopes to capture market share through brand recognition and ease of use. If it works the way the company says it will, business owners will be able to give new employees access to their own cloud-based PC within a matter of minutes. At the same time, the service will eliminate concerns about device security because no files will be stored on the user's devices. At face value, the service offers solutions to common VPN and security problems and ought to be popular. It should also extend the life of older PCs. So long as your ageing laptop or desktop can still run a browser window, it can access Windows 365 and rely on the cloud-based PC to perform processor-heavy tasks. This sounds like the right product at the right time for Microsoft - but we suspect it will all come down to the price. Hopefully, we'll find out more about that soon.