Microsoft to bring multi-user virtualization to Windows and Office with Windows Virtual Desktop service

Microsoft's new Windows Virtual Desktop service will allow enterprise subscription customers to run Windows, Office and third-party apps in Azure virtual machines.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

We've known for a while that Microsoft was readying a new virtual-desktop-enabled edition of Windows 10. At one point known as "Windows 10 Enterprise for Remote Sessions," and more recently "Windows 10 Enterprise for Virtual Desktops," this new Windows edition was first noticed by Windows 10 Redstone 5 testers weeks ago. At the Microsoft Ignite IT pro conference this week, Microsoft is going public about what this Windows variant will be and how it will work.

On Sept. 24, Microsoft announced what it's calling the Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). WVD will allow users to virtualize Windows 7 and 10, Office 365 ProPlus apps and other third-party applications by running them remotely in Azure virtual machines.

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Using WVD, customers will be able to provide remote desktop sessions with multiple users logged into the same Windows 10 or Windows Server virtual machine. They also can opt to virtualize the full desktop or individual Microsoft Store and/or line-of-business applications. The WVD service also supports full VDI with Windows 10 and Windows 7, Microsoft officials told Ars Technica. (Those wanting to virtualize Windows 7 after Microsoft support ends in January 2020 will be able to do so for three years without paying for Extended Security Updates.)

Licenses for WVD will be provided for no additional cost as part of Windows Enterprise and Education E3 and E5 subscriptions. The aforementioned Windows 10 Enterprise for Virtual Desktops edition won't be released as a separate version of Windows 10 at all. That name is just for licensing purposes, officials said.

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Microsoft officials said a public preview of WVD will be available later this year, and those interested can request notification of the preview's availability. To use WVD, users need an Azure subscription and will be charged for the storage and compute their virtual machines use. Microsoft also plans to offer WVD via Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers and is working with third parties like Citrix to build on top of WVD, officials said.

In 2017, Citrix introduced Citrix XenDesktop Essentials, which allowed users to access Windows 10 Enterprise virtual desktops on Azure. That service cost $12 per user per month.

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Also last year, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 virtualization would be available via Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers starting in the fall. At that time, Microsoft made available Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 with VDI rights for $12 per user per month and $19 per user per month, respectively. Those with Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 had virtualization rights added for no additional costs to their subscriptions.

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