Microsoft is working on an Azure-powered Cloud PC service

Microsoft is building a new desktop-as-a-service offering built on top of Windows Virtual Desktop that could launch as soon as 2021.

microsoftcloudpc.jpg

Credit: ZDNet

For years, many of us Microsoft watchers have expected Microsoft to create a true virtualized Windows PC experience. Well, it's happening, likely as soon as spring 2021.

Microsoft is currently calling the coming virtualization service "Cloud PC." Cloud PC won't replace locally installed Windows (and Office) -- for the foreseeable future, anyway. It will be an option for customers who want to use their own Windows PCs made by Microsoft and/or other PC makers basically like thin clients, with Windows, Office and potentially other software delivered virtually by Microsoft.

I found a  job description posted June 5 for a program manager for Microsoft's Cloud PC team on the company's careers site. The description of Cloud PC isn't super-detailed -- or surprising to anyone following Microsoft's virtualization strategy.

"Microsoft Cloud PC is a strategic, new offering that is built on top of Windows Virtual Desktop to delivering Desktop as a Service. At its core, Cloud PC provides business customers a modern, elastic, cloud-based Windows experience and will allow organizations to stay current in a more simplistic and scalable manner," the job description says.

Microsoft is planning to make Cloud PC a Microsoft-365-powered experience that is managed by Microsoft and sold for a flat per user price, the job description says. This pricing piece is key. Windows Virtual Desktop pricing revolves around Azure consumption. Cloud PC sounds like it will be available for a set subscription fee.

SEE: Top desktop as a service (DaaS) providers: Amazon, Citrix, Microsoft, VMware, and more (TechRepublic)

Microsoft had dropped a few hints recently that it was looking to create some kind of virtualized PC management experience. In February, Scott Manchester, who had been Group Program Manager for Windows Virtual Desktop, took on a new role as Group Program Manager for "Cloud Managed Desktops." I'm guessing that this team, along with Windows engineering, are the ones honing the Cloud PC vision and deliverables.

The biggest question here is when will Microsoft introduce its Cloud PC service/offering. I'm hearing this could happen as early as next spring, but Microsoft officials would not talk about Cloud PC at all and provided the "Microsoft will not comment on rumors and speculation" boiler-plate answer to my query.

If the concept of a Microsoft-managed Cloud PC sounds familiar in some ways, it's not surprising.

Microsoft historians may remember back to 2014 or so when rumors were rampant that Microsoft was going to launch a "Windows 365" subscription service. At that time, Microsoft officials insisted they didn't have plans to introduce such a service. 

Since then, Microsoft has made some versions of Windows available as part of various subscription plans (Microsoft 365/Windows E3, E5, etc.). And in 2017, Microsoft execs briefly used "Microsoft 365-powered device" to refer to Windows PCs but subsequently phased out that nomenclature.

Microsoft also currently offers a service called the Microsoft Managed Desktop (MMD), which is a subscription offering under which Microsoft sets up, updates and manages business users' Windows 10 PCs for a fee. MMD includes Microsoft 365 (specifically, Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and Office 365 ProPlus); Windows Autopilot; and select Windows 10 hardware. Microsoft does the device configuration, security monitoring and remediation, app deployment, update management, desktop analytics and 24-by-7 end-user support. This is a service that is only used by certain large enterprise customers at this time. 

It sounds like Windows Central is hearing some similar information about Microsoft's plans for a virtualized thin-client service, as well, and mentioned this on the Windows Central podcast on July 17