Windows 365: Microsoft’s cloud PC at a glance

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Windows 365 cloud PC

In addition to Office, Microsoft’s PC operating system is also available in the cloud. COMPUTER BILD shows what Windows 365 brings and how much it costs.

For years it was just a rumor, but Microsoft’s “cloud PC” has become a reality as of August 2021. Like the Microsoft 365 Office subscription, the Redmond, Washington, software giant has also moved Windows 11 online with Windows 365 and is offering “Windows cloud PC” on any device as part of the subscription. Ai-Lookup explains how it works and who is interested in this service.

What is Windows 365?

The service, originally developed under the codename “Project Deschutes”, is a virtual Windows desktop that Microsoft manages entirely in its Azure business cloud. The operating system is no longer loaded from the hard drive when the computer starts up, but is displayed as a virtual PC in an Internet browser. Thus, the device used is secondary: Windows 365 works not only on PCs and laptops, but also on Macs, tablets, and smartphones – as long as the device has an Internet connection and a browser with HTML5 support.
Anyone who doubts the idea of Windows on a smartphone can be reassured: all computing operations in the cloud PC are performed on Microsoft’s high-performance servers on the Internet, and then transferred to the end device. While a fast Internet connection won’t hurt, less powerful or older devices will suffice.

Who gets Windows 365?

Microsoft originally planned Windows 365 for individuals, especially gamers. With the Corona crisis, the group changed its strategy and turned to the service exclusively to companies that rely on hybrid work models, meaning that employees also work in a home office. With cloud-based PCs, employees can access specially created Windows desktops over the Internet and find all the programs and files they need there. In addition, employees use the normal work interface – regardless of the end device – to access the Windows desktop from their personal smartphone, for example. Windows Cloud PC offers benefits for more than just the workforce: Managing and securing virtual desktops also becomes easier and more flexible for the company.
In June 2023, it was announced that Microsoft would also like to offer Windows 365 to private users in the future . Thus, current versions of the operating system, such as Windows 11, can also be used in streaming mode on devices that do not meet the increased system requirements.

Is Windows 365 secure?

Security is one of the main goals of Windows 365. Due to serious gaps in home office security, the service offers a secure working environment even on insecure private devices. Microsoft promises its customers advanced security features and controls for company administrators. In an official announcement, the group emphasized the secure transfer of Windows virtual desktops to the user.
However, during the mid-August 2021 testing phase, login data could be read from Windows 365 . French programmer and IT security expert Benjamin Delpy took out a free trial subscription and was able to steal other users’ login credentials in plain text using a password theft tool. The service now offers support for the Windows Hello security feature , which should protect against the described attack.

Where are the programs and data?

With Windows 365, in addition to the operating system, all programs, settings, and data come from the cloud. Microsoft programs such as Teams and Edge are installed. Windows 365 no longer stores text, tables, images or movies in local storage, but on the web. Like Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), they are available on the desktop after Windows starts. Another advantage over classic Windows: The operating system is ready to use right away – you don’t need to pre-launch it.

How do I access the Windows cloud PC?

You can access Windows 365 Business from any computer or smartphone through the windows365.microsoft.com and cloudpc.microsoft.com websites . You can log in using your Microsoft work or training account. Once logged in, you’ll find your normal desktop with all your data just as you left it last time – regardless of which device you logged in from.
Access is also possible through Microsoft Remote Desktop – the software has long been available as an app for Windows , macOS , iOS and Android . The best way to use Windows 10 and Windows 11 is to use the new Windows 365 app for Windows 10 and 11, which Microsoft officially released in February 2023 . It can be installed from the Microsoft Store , and should be included directly in Windows in the future.

How much does Windows 365 cost?

Prices start at 28.30 euros per month per user. There is a virtual Windows PC with a dual-core processor and 4 gigabytes of RAM and a 64GB virtual hard drive. The most expensive configuration at the moment, a virtual system with an octa-core processor, 32 gigabytes of RAM and 512 gigabytes of storage, costs up to 159.70 euros per month per user. Windows 365 comes in two flavors:
Windows 365 Business does not require Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure and is designed for self-employed and small to medium-sized companies. Up to 300 users are possible.
Windows 365 Enterprise is for larger companies and supports any number of employees. A subscription to Microsoft Azure is also required here. Windows cloud PC.
The service can be set up and subscribed to on the Windows 365 website . By the way, Windows 365 isn’t exactly new: with Windows Virtual Desktop and Microsoft Managed Desktop, Microsoft already provides similar remote working services for business customers. However, since the group calculates the cost of Windows 365 as a flat rate per user, the offering should be significantly cheaper for many businesses than the Windows Virtual Desktop offering, where the price is based on Azure data consumption.

Can I test Windows 365 cloud PC for free?

At first, those who wanted to test three sample configurations for eight weeks could do so for free. All they had to do was set up a Windows 365 account with Microsoft and sign up for a trial run. But after just two days, the group discontinued the test subscriptions because of high demand.

What next?

On April 6, Microsoft unveiled its Windows 365 “Frontline” plan, which should soon be available on more favorable terms. It’s designed for employees who don’t need their own workstation or who share their PC with others, such as when working part-time. Interested companies can register for a free preview.
At the Ignite 2022 developer conference in October 2022, Microsoft announced further enhancements to its cloud service in addition to the Windows 365 app mentioned above and the government version . The group is currently working to support a Citrix virtualization solution, improve IT administration and implement a simplified single sign-on authentication (SSO) process.
Microsoft has already announced innovations for hybrid operations in April 2022.

These include three outstanding features that make the Windows cloud PC much more flexible:

  • Windows 365 boot: Allows the corresponding host computer to run directly from the Windows cloud. The feature launches in a test run on May 23, 2023. Microsoft provides installation instructions on the Windows IT blog.
  • Windows 365 Switching: This feature allows you to quickly switch between on-premises Windows and cloud PCs.
  • Windows 365 Offline: This allows you to use Windows 365 temporarily without an Internet connection, for example, when you’re away from home.
Microsoft Cloud PC 365 Windows cloud PC
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