Microsoft is looking to further blur the lines between local PC experiences and the cloud with some new features it plans to add to Windows 365, its cloud PC service. Officials announced some of these features - minus any kind of delivery-date targets or details on how they'll be delivered -- during the company's "Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work" virtual event on April 5.
Microsoft made its Windows 365/Cloud PC service generally available last August. Windows 365 is a cloud-based virtualization service that builds on top of and complements Azure Virtual Desktop. Windows 365 will allow users to bring their Windows 10 or Windows 11 desktop, apps, tools, data, and settings to their personal and work devices, including PCs, Macs, iPads, Linux, and Android devices. Microsoft has positioned Windows 365/Cloud PC as ideally suited to hybrid work scenarios like remotely onboarding/offboarding employees, dialing up (and down) compute capacity, securing environments from the cloud and supporting growing and contracting workforces, including those in front-line work situations.
At its Ignite Fall 2021 conference, Microsoft officials said they were making available one of the most requested features for Windows 365: Azure Active Directory Join. That feature went to public preview in February this year. Today, officials said that capability finally would be generally available starting in early May 2022.
Beyond that, Microsoft has some big plans for how it hopes to get more users interested in using Windows 365 as part of their daily work-computing experience. Today, officials said the following Windows 365 integrations with Windows 11 would be coming "soon":
Windows 365 Boot: Users will be able to designate a cloud profile to which they will be able to boot directly. They won't have to first boot to the OS on a device.
Windows 365 App: Users will be able to pin their customized Cloud Desktop app to their Windows 11 taskbar and/or Start Menu for easy access.
Windows 365 Switch: Users will be able to move between their Cloud PCs and their local desktop just as easily as they currently can move between different desktops using the Task Switcher.
Windows 365 Offline: Users will be able to work in their Cloud PCs even when disconnected from the Internet and later reconnect and automatically resync with the Windows 365 service without data loss. Update: Based on today's virtual event, it sounds like this particular feature may be an idea more than a deliverable at this point.
"These scenarios are powerful for businesses, and they are just the beginning of our Windows and Microsoft cloud integration," said Microsoft Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer Panos Panay in an April 5 blog post.
Microsoft also used today's Windows hybrid event to re-announce a number of features already in Windows 11 -- either in various Insider test builds and/or in the mainstream shipping version of the product -- which officials thought would have particular appeal to business users.
Microsoft is not talking about pricing or licensing for these new Windows 365 integrations with Windows 11 at this point. A number of users with whom I've spoken have said they were surprised by how expensive Windows 365 is. The service costs anywhere from $20 to $162 per user per month, based on cores, RAM and storage.