The tech and software giant Microsoft has released a new product named Windows 365 in the second half of 2021. Its name is a bit confusing since the company has another 365-named product, Microsoft 365, which delivers the well-known Office productivity tools. But Windows 365 is entirely different; it is a full-fledged computer on Microsoft servers. Although, even the customer service I spoke with confused their names and answered my questions like I am talking about Office software.
What is Windows 365?
Windows 365 is Microsoft’s cloud PC service similar to the gaming-focused ones; like GeForce Now. In this concept, users need a basic, low-end device to connect to the cloud PC through the internet. When the user makes any action, like pressing the “C” button on the keyboard, the command goes to the cloud PC and the PC on the cloud applies this command. Then it sends the resulting image to the user’s device; the user sees the resulting image as the computing done on his tiny device. This whole process repeats itself as streaming commands to the cloud PC and streaming video to the client device. This concept is already being embraced by the gaming industry and some gamers to access expensive, high-end hardware at a fair subscription cost. Now, Microsoft is trying to deliver the same; but working-focused PCs to enterprises with Windows 365.
Microsoft already has Azure Virtual Desktop for cloud computers, for almost the same features. Windows 365 takes it and takes one step further; practically making a “managed” service. Your IT department will not have to deal with most of the complicated process of creating or updating many Windows instances on the servers. Microsoft will be dealing with them.
Windows 365 hardware
Microsoft -currently- delivers 2 to 8 vCPU cores, 4 to 32 GB RAM, and 64 to 512 GB; pricing all of the hardware combinations accordingly. Windows 365 does not offer a GPU solution for playing games or GPU computing. However, it grants a lightning-fast internet connection reaching 10 Gbits per second in download. Other than those, you are simply remote-connecting to a Windows PC. You can connect it through the browser as well as dedicated applications for Windows PCs, Android, and iOS devices. Nothing less, nothing more.
The benefits of Windows 365
As I mentioned before, you’ll still need a device to connect to your cloud-based Windows PC, most preferably a laptop or a PC with a keyboard and a mouse. So, what does Windows 365 offer? Well, actually many things. First of all, it removes the ties between the users and the computer hardware. As all of the data, preferences, computing, passwords and other things reside in the cloud, the client device loses most of its importance. They almost become dummy devices that you will no longer think to kill yourself after losing because there are top-secret projects in their storage. In addition, you can use much cheaper hardware to access your high-performance cloud PC; the cost of losing or breaking it goes down. You only need a stable connection and a CPU with an integrated GPU powerful enough to stream media.
The benefits of Windows 365 are not limited to those I mentioned above. Upgrading all of the PCs of an enterprise is huge torture for IT departments. But with Windows 365, it is possible to upgrade all of the PCs with a few clicks. IT departments will not need to reinstall the PCs, make employees log into their accounts, connect to the printers, or do other things. A few clicks later, PCs will have their hardware upgraded immediately, which is a great achievement. However, current hardware options are quite limited; even the top tier will perform almost the same as a mediocre computer. But I think Microsoft will offer better hardware options in the future, maybe even with a proper GPU.
The downsides of Windows 365
In its current shape, Windows 365 is not a perfect solution yet. First of all, you still need a computer with a keyboard and mouse to properly benefit from it. The most important downside is the network delay. The game streaming services generally provide a smooth experience in games where you do not have to see the cursor of the mouse. The games make the latency tolerable up to a point. However, the tolerability point of latency in mouse movement is much, much lower. You can immediately notice the weirdness as soon as you move it. In mobile connections, it will be a mess. Thankfully, 5G will reduce the delay down to 1 millisecond; but this will most likely happen only where you can see the tower directly. One of the factors that will affect the latency is the hardware of the client. We have already stated that a low-end PC will be enough for Windows 365. However, it does not mean your 10-year-old low-end laptop will deliver a butter-smooth experience. Your client device needs to decode the streaming video from the Microsoft servers as fast as it can. There are hardware decoders in CPUs, mobile CPUs, and even GPUs to carry this burden and they get improved over the generations. The hardware decoder in your 10-year-old laptop’s CPU is likely to cause stutters or delays. So, you will need a new generation of low-end hardware. The last downside of Windows 365 is its price. It is very, very expensive. Just check the plans and pricing table below.
Windows 365 plans and pricing
Although Microsoft provides low to mid-tier hardware for its Windows 365 instances, the prices they charge are pretty high. A 2-core CPU, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage Windows 365 instance costs $32 per month for the enterprises. As the core number, RAM, and storage goes higher, the cost increases up to $162 per month for an 8-core CPU, 32 GB RAM, and 512 GB storage instance. Those prices are incredibly high at a first glance. Although, it brings some huge benefits to the enterprises since it takes most of the burden from IT departments. Those are managed cloud Windows solutions which will end up with a smaller team for the IT department. Additionally, it makes the employee laptops much more secure. Thinking about the benefits of Windows 365 for enterprises, it might actually be worth its money. We should also wait and see if any competitors decide to penetrate into the market; that might dramatically change Microsoft’s pricing policy for Windows 365.
Windows 365 has different pricing for businesses and enterprises; enterprise prices are flat $4/month cheaper. Additionally, the business prices discount $4/month if you already have Windows licenses; which effectively makes it the same price as the enterprise option. You can inspect all of the plans and pricing by following the link below:
In its current state, Windows 365 might look like an absurd solution despite its benefits. However, it also has the potential to change the future. First of all, eliminating the need for powerful hardware is a huge thing. If Microsoft really decides to go dive deeper into cloud PC solutions, it might open a door for cloud-focused dummy laptops. Think about that; you only need a minimal operating system to stream data between client and cloud (which Microsoft can easily develop), a decent media decoder, and high-speed connection hardware to benefit from the cloud-based services, such as Windows 365. You need nothing else to be expensive or high-tier. Designing such devices is quite easy. The laptop companies can even go for better specs for their components like the screen (which is the most important one), speakers, keyboard, and more, instead of putting a $500 CPU in them.
All we need is a lower-latency internet connection.
Is Windows 365 cloud PC free?
No, Windows 365 cloud PC is not free. It costs between $28 and $162 depending on hardware and already having a Windows license.
Is Windows 365 the same as Office 365?
No, they are completely different products. Windows 365 is Microsoft’s managed cloud PC solution for businesses and enterprises. Office 365, which is renamed Microsoft 365 is the subscription-based Office suite solution.
Does Windows 365 include Windows 10?
The business subscriptions for Windows 365 include Windows 10 license. However, if you already own a license, you can get a $4/month discount with the Hybrid Benefit option.
When did Windows 365 release?
Windows 365 was released on 16 July 2021.