Also known as Cloud PC, Windows 365 differs from Azure Virtual Desktops (AVD, formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop) in that it does not require any direct interaction with Microsoft Azure by users. Microsoft describes it as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, where AVD is considered platform-as-a-service (PaaS).
Users will be able to sign in to a portal from any device and securely stream personalized desktops, apps, data, and content from the cloud in their browser, or in macOS, Android, or via the Windows Remote Desktop client. When they switch devices, they can pick up where they left off.
The endpoints will be deployed and managed in Microsoft Endpoint Manager; no additional virtual desktop expertise or resources are required. Deployment takes a matter of minutes, with administrators allowed to select from a library of system images tailored to various workloads. If companies prefer, they can create customized images that may be deployed from Endpoint Manager. Each user will run in a separate virtual machine.
At launch, there will not be an offline mode, although Microsoft plans to offer one in the future. Windows 11 support will be added when the OS is generally available later this year.
Requirements and availability
There’s a long list of requirements for companies planning to deploy Windows 365, including an Azure subscription, an Azure Virtual Network, and an environment that is Hybrid Azure AD join enabled. Customers can choose from multiple Windows 365 license types reflecting the power of the virtual machine required. Microsoft says that graphical enhanced options will be added in the near future.
Partners are already jumping on board. In conjunction with Microsoft’s announcement, NetApp, Microsoft’s Partner of the Year in Customer Experience, introduced Windows 365 with Spot PC, a custom offering for its partner community that combines Windows 365 with enhanced management through NetApp’s Spot PC as a fully managed infrastructure service billed directly to the managed service provider (MSP) or partner.
Windows 365 will be available to commercial customers on August 2 through Microsoft Cloud Solutions Providers, and enterprises will be able to add it to their existing enterprise agreements. Pricing will be per user, per month, and will be revealed on August 1.