Microsoft has announced a new “cloud PC” product where users can stream a Windows device from anywhere.
Windows 365 will work similarly to game streaming – where the computing is done in a data centre somewhere remotely and streamed to a device.
That means all sorts of devices – including tablets or Apple Macs – can stream a full Windows desktop PC.
It is being sold to businesses to begin with, as many firms move to a mix of office and remote working.
Microsoft is marketing the new way of using a PC as “hybrid Windows for a hybrid world”.
The company says that every user’s apps and settings will boot instantly from any device – allowing personalised Windows PCs to be accessed from anywhere.
“The Windows experience is consistent, no matter the device,” the announcement promised.
“You can get the same work done on a laptop in a hotel room, a tablet from their car between appointments, or your desktop while you’re in the office.”
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It will launch in August for business customers “of all sizes”, Microsoft said. To begin with, it will stream a version of Windows 10 – but the successor, Windows 11, will also be available once it launches.
There is no news on whether a personal product will follow. However, Microsoft has been moving towards a subscription model for its man services for nearly a decade.
Microsoft Office began marketing subscription licences with Office 2013, which was launched alongside Office 365, as the subscription version is known. It now makes more money than its single-purchase desktop-bound version.
Similarly, Microsoft has been championing the ongoing subscription model in its gaming division. Its Xbox Games Pass service has largely won over sceptical gamers, providing a range of titles to download and play for a monthly fee. It has recently added game streaming, using similar technology to this new version of Windows.
The backbone of the service already existed, using Microsoft’s widely-used Azure platform and existing virtualisation technology.
The downside to such services is that their long-term cost for individuals is often much higher than a one-off purchase.
Microsoft has also dramatically lowered the price of Windows for many customers. Where once it was sold on discs at computer stores for a significant cost, the company has offered customers free upgrades from one version to another for many years, and will do the same for Windows 11.
Instead, Microsoft has sold Windows-related products such as OneDrive cloud storage and Office 365 subscriptions.