The digital transformation of office work continues as employers move from a reactive, remote-worker model to a more strategically planned hybrid model for their workforce. We have watched Microsoft address this new mindset around work through their entire Microsoft 365 suite of productivity and collaboration software that runs on Windows.
Now they’re moving from the tools workers use to the operating system upon which those tools run – Windows. The new Windows 365 Cloud PC service, aimed at commercial customers, means IT no longer has to install Windows and various apps, data and settings on every computer for users. Instead, that computing experience associated with specific users is hosted in the cloud.
The Windows 365 Cloud PC Concept
The Windows 365 Cloud PC, which Microsoft is calling an entirely new computing category, delivers the entire Windows operating system experience to remote workers, including full personalization with apps, data, and settings via a modern web browser. It can be streamed to a personal or corporate device and, in either scenario, all the work data remains on the Windows 365 Cloud PC and not the local device.
The service is device-independent: Windows 365 Cloud PC can be securely streamed on Mac, iPad, Linux, and Android devices, in addition to Windows devices.
The Windows 365 Cloud PC can also access local hardware peripherals and integrate their use into the streamed operating system. This includes Windows Hello capable cameras for biometric log-on, standard webcams, plus local or network printers, scanners, etc.
Managing the Windows 365 Cloud PC
IT pros and system administrators are already familiar with Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM), and every instance of Windows 365 Cloud PC can be provisioned, deployed, and managed from the MEM Admin Center. This includes establishing security baselines and group policies.
Windows 365 Cloud PC is integrated with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for identity management, including multi-factor authentication, password-less access, and Defender for Endpoint security on the Cloud PC.
Basically, if it can be provisioned on a physical device, then it can be done on a Windows 365 Cloud PC instance.
Finally, all aspects of the Windows 365 Cloud PC utilize encryption, including managed disks, stored data at rest, and network traffic between the Cloud PC and Azure.
What Does Windows 365 Cloud PC Mean for Digital Transformation and Hybrid Work?
“This new offering is encouraging as it has the potential to help organizations overcome this challenge by providing employees easy access to work resources and applications from any device,” he said.
In addition, he says, there are user experience advantages. “Being able to quickly provide any employee – whether it’s the traditional office worker, frontline workers, or even contractors – with an easy and secure way to access their apps, data, and other work resources via a familiar OS in Windows is a big bonus.”
And for IT pros, this will be an easy way to deploy virtualization and maintain consistent support and policy across the entire environment the IT pro is responsible for. “It also helps mitigate any issues around the compatibility of applications and services,” he added.
Windows 365 Cloud PC Pricing and Availability
Microsoft did not announce any specific cost or subscription requirements for this new service but it did confirm to Bloomberg News that it will charge a monthly per-user fee for Windows 365 Cloud PC and that there will be three preset tiers depending on computing power and storage.
It will make more cost- and subscription-related details public when the service hits general availability on August 2, 2021.