Microsoft launched Windows 365, a service that gives businesses the option to allow their employees to easily access the Windows 10 desktop from the cloud (with Windows 11 once it becomes widely available). Similar to a game stream, but for the desktop, it will be available to business users on August 2, 2021.

Announced via a press release, Windows 365 was long awaited and is really just an evolution of existing remote desktop services.

Arguably, Microsoft already offers Azure Virtual Desktop which provides the option to allow your employees to access a Windows PC in the cloud. The difference seems to be that Windows 365 is much easier to use and involves none of the complexity of setting up a full Azure virtual desktop environment in the Azure cloud.

But couldn’t Microsoft have made Azure Virtual Desktop easier to use instead of launching another virtual desktop service? Yes, but Azure Virtual Desktop is very much an enterprise service and, by default, that means it has to fit nicely into the rest of the complexities of an enterprise’s existing infrastructure. Pandemic put it into service in smaller companies because they had few alternatives, but in many ways, the pitch is that Microsoft admits it was too difficult for them to manage. Windows 365, on the other hand, is something of a fresh slate. It’s also available through a basic subscription service.

“Microsoft also continues to innovate on Azure Virtual Desktop for those organizations with deep virtualization expertise that want more customization options and flexibility,” the company says. At least it’s known why the company changed the name from Windows Virtual Desktop to Azure Virtual Desktop now. 

This also gives Microsoft a chance to talk about “a new category of hybrid personal computing” that CEO Satya Nadella calls “PC in the cloud.” It’s not clear what exactly it’s supposed to be, but it’s a new category.

“Just like the applications that were brought to the cloud with SaaS, we are now bringing the operating system to the cloud, giving organizations greater flexibility and a secure way to empower their workforce to be more productive and connected, regardless of location,” Nadella explains in the press release.

We’re not talking about hardware but really, it’s just a virtualized operating system in the cloud that can be accessed from anywhere and that’s a category that’s been around for a long time.

“Hybrid work was fundamentally changing the role of technology in organizations today,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365. “With a more diverse workforce than ever before, organizations need a new way to deliver a great productivity experience with greater versatility, simplicity and security. Cloud PC is an exciting new category of hybrid personal computing that turns any device into a personalized, productive and secure digital workspace. The announcement of Windows 365 is just the beginning of what will be possible as we blur the lines between the device and the cloud.”

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