Microsoft merges Windows 11 cloud PCs and local desktops • The Register


Microsoft revealed plans to make Windows 11 cloud PCs readily available and integrated with its flagship OS on physical PCs, and hinted at much greater integration between Redmond’s desktop OS and its clouds.

The software giant’s plan relies on Cloud PC, Windows desktops streaming from Azure launching in 2021 as a way to consume virtual PCs without having to learn the complexities of desktop virtualization. Cloud PCs are already accessible via an app or browser. Now Microsoft has promised two new ways to make them available.

One is called “Windows 365 Boot” and allows a user to boot directly into a Cloud PC from a physical PC and then choose the cloud desktop as their “primary Windows experience”.

The other new offering is “Windows 365 Switch” and will switch between Cloud PC and local desktop. A native Windows 365 app will launch the service directly from the Start menu or taskbar. Here is a picture of Windows Switch.

Windows 365 switch

Click to enlarge

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s product director for Windows + Devices, said the new offerings described above will be coming to Windows 11 “soon” and will also be available from Windows 10.

Something with a firmer release date is Azure AD Join support for Cloud PCs, which Panay has promised to debut in May. Which seems sensible: if users are going to bounce between local and cloud PCs, having the latter manageable under AD seems essential.

windows 365 offline

Microsoft has also promised something called “Windows 365 Offline” that will allow working without an internet connection and syncing changes to a Cloud PC once connectivity is restored.

Microsoft suggests all of this is necessary to manage post-pandemic hybrid working models that will see many workers spending more time away from offices and the (presumably) well-managed environments offered in those locations.

But the company’s twin workstations don’t consider costs: Cloud PCs charge a monthly fee, so these new hybrid arrangements could be an expensive way to go hybrid.

Panay’s post states that the above “is just the beginning of our Windows and Microsoft cloud integration.”

A hint of this integration can perhaps be seen in a recently announced premium endpoint management offering that can work across PCs, devices, and the cloud. Endpoint Manager can also use a new remote help offering that does what it says on the box – and hopefully won’t be abused by – ahem – unauthorized tech support services that can’t. – not be the best intentions.

The company also has other desktop goodies on the way, confirming the imminent arrival of features familiar to Windows Insiders: folders in the Start menu, Snapshot layouts and tabs in File Explorer to name just three. . The company also talked about targeted organizing messages in Windows 11.

No – no ads (not yet anyway) but a way for an IT department to send messages to users on the various Windows 11 surfaces (e.g. taskbar or lock screen.)

Endpoint Manager has also had some tweaks as Microsoft ponders a hybrid workforce, with Windows Autopatch (due July 2022) coming in.

The service (a feature of Windows Enterprise E3) creates four deployment rings, called Test, First, Fast, and Broad. The number of devices in each varies from the bare minimum in Test to a majority in Broad, and aims to get updates delivered in a timely manner without requiring administrators to spend time planning deployments.

Although some of Microsoft’s announcements today focus on the near future, the direction of travel is clear. Redmond has realized that the hybrid model is truly here to stay and intends its Cloud PCs to meet customers wherever they are.

To back up that view, Microsoft’s Work Trends Index found that 52% of 31,102 full-time or freelance workers surveyed in 31 markets in January and February of this year are likely to consider hybrid or remotely in the coming year. And for those already working from home or in various environments, 80% believe they are just as productive, if not more so, since the shutdowns. ®


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