In yet another example of its growing emphasis on remaking itself as a devices and services company, Microsoft looks to be developing a pay-per-use "Windows desktop as a service" that will run on Windows Azure.
The desktop virtualization service, codenamed Mohoro, is in a very early development phase, from what I've heard from sources. I don't know the final launch target, but I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't until the second half of 2014.
Mohoro is a town located on the island of Grande Comore in the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean. Given that members of the Microsoft India Development Center may be playing a key role in Mohoro's development, according to my sources, the codename choice seems appropriate.
Microsoft owns the Mohoro.com and Mohoro.Net domain names.
Mohoro, like another Windows service, Windows Intune, is a product of Microsoft's Server and Tools unit, I hear. Windows Intune is still not yet hosted on Windows Azure (as far as I know), but supposedly the plan is to move it to Azure at some point. Windows Intune already does make use of Windows Azure Active Directory as its directory and authentication service.
The same way that Windows Intune is the cloud complement to System Center, Mohoro seems to be the cloud version of Remote Desktop/Remote App.
This is like "Remote App as a hosted service," said one of my contacts. It could be for companies who want thin clients or to run legacy apps on new PCs. Right now, companies have to have their own servers in the equation to do this, but "with Mohoro, you click a few buttons, deploy your apps, use Intune to push out configuration to all of your company's devices, and you're done," my contact added.
Microsoft currently offers multiple ways for users to access their Windows desktops remotely via different virtualization technologies and products.
The aforementioned Remote App/Remote Desktop allows Windows users to connect to a remote Windows PC and access resources from it. On the Windows RT front, given that operating system's restrictions on use of almost any existing Win32 applications, Remote Desktop provides a way for users to continue to use apps they already have on new hardware like the Microsoft Surface RT. Licensing of Remote Desktop and Remote Desktop Services is complex, however, and requires access to server infrastructure on the back-end.
Currently, it is not possible under Microsoft's licensing terms to run Windows client in virtual machines hosted on Windows Azure. (The new Azure VMs do allow users to run Windows Server or Linux Server in the new Azure virtual machines.)
It's also worth noting that Microsoft does not allow partners to provide delivery of a hosted version of Windows 7 as a client or to access Office as a service on Windows 7, as Microsoft officials made clear after squabbles last year with OnLive over its Desktop and Desktop Plus services.
I've asked Microsoft officials for comment on Mohoro. No word back so far.
Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company would not comment on "rumors/speculation."