Microsoft was one of the first companies back in the pre-pandemic era (yes, life before COVID did exist) to hop on the hybrid workplace bandwagon. Companies that hire employees to work both physically at designated offices and remotely at their home were consistently growing in prevalence. Since most firms use Windows on their computers, there was a large untapped market that Microsoft could profit off of and that’s where Windows 365 came in last year.
Windows 365 was a new cloud-based service from Microsoft that would let users access a Windows installation on any device from anywhere in the world. PCs in the clouds (not literally) were made available to businesses where they could stream a version of either Windows 10 or 11 inside a web browser. Many other services have existed before Windows 365 that do the same thing, but this was Microsoft’s own attempt at the idea.
The best thing about Windows 365 is that it auto-saves your progress and data so you every time you switch on a device and boot into your cloud PC, it always picks up from where you left off. Part of the magic here is that the cloud PC essentially never shuts off and that allows you to resume your work from the exact point you last left it at, even if you switch devices.
Windows 365 and its future
Now, Microsoft is looking to take Windows 365 to the next level. The company held a massive Windows event today where it announced a bunch of new Windows features but also where Windows as a whole is going forward. Microsoft’s vision for the future is a hybrid one and they believe in offering Windows as a service to everyone, everywhere, round-the-clock without the need for a local installation.
Going forward, Microsoft will be integrating Windows 365 into Windows 11 natively so that in the near future, you could boot into a Windows 365-powered cloud PC right from your desktop. There are four new features Microsoft announced today for Windows 365. All of these are planned for the coming months and you should see them gradually rolling out to regions around the world.
Windows 365 Boot
The first feature to talk about is Windows 365 Boot. As the name suggests, this feature will let users log into the cloud-version of Windows directly from the login screen. Instead of having to first log into the local installation of Windows, then opening a browser to access Windows 365. All you’d need to do is enter your login credentials at the startup screen and you will directly be logged into your Windows 365 cloud PC.
Microsoft’s target with this feature is to reduce the IT workload of a firm as a whole. For instance, and this example was given by Microsoft itself, frontline workers might be distributed Surface tablets at the start of each shift, from there they would need a local log-in to get into Windows 11 and open the browser to access Windows 365. With Windows 365 Boot, all of this cuts down to just a direct login from the startup screen, saving a ton of time at the end.
Windows 365 Switch
Next up, we have Windows 365 Swift which takes the seamless experience of logging into Windows 365 that Microsoft is building to a whole ‘nother level. This option allows you to switch to your Windows 365 Cloud PC right from the Taskbar through Windows 11’s Task View feature that facilitates switching between Virtual Desktops. The Cloud PC will be added as a Virtual Desktop option in that Task View making switching to it easier than ever.
Windows 365 Offline
Moving on, Microsoft is also planning to bring Windows 365 offline. Now I know the whole point of cloud-based anything is that it is forever-online and require an internet connection to be used. At some point in the future, Microsoft will enable Windows 365 to work offline. This doesn’t mean that it will be some revolutionary technology that allows you to access the cloud without an internet connection.
Windows 365 Offline is a simple concept as in it will let you work offline on your Windows 365 cloud PC but your progress won’t be saved as there is no internet connection. As soon as you connect to the internet, Windows 365 will sync with the cloud and update the servers to now be in-line with whatever you’re doing on your cloud PC. In essence, this is basically a safety measure that will, for instance in case of a network outage, allow you to continue working even when offline, but connect you back to the cloud the moment internet connection is restored.
Windows 365 App
Last but certainly not the least, a fully-fledged Windows 365 app is in the works for Windows 11. This app would enable you to access Windows 365 from its designated app without having to log into a browser first. You could start the cloud PC right from your Taskbar with just one click giving you direct access to your cloud PC. This helps power a more personalized and experience that is tailored to fit your settings, profile, and work style.
All in all, Microsoft has a very ambitious road planned ahead for Windows 365 as it aims to bridge the gap between on-site, physical and remote work. Panos Pray, Microsoft’s Windows and Surface chief, was quoted saying that these features are “just the beginning of our Windows and Microsoft cloud integration“. These new features along with many more to come will help evolve Windows 365 into a true hybrid force of nature.
One thing to keep in mind here is that these features will be exclusive to commercial customers, that isn’t a problem though since Windows 365 is a service availably only for businesses so it has a commercial client base anyways. This does open our minds to imagining a possible consumer version of Windows 365 for normal users, but that probably isn’t a priority for Microsoft, at least not in the near future.
Over the last two years, the organizations that thrived were those that embraced digital transformation. We cannot always predict what’s coming, but we can ensure that Windows stays at the forefront of technology and experiences — from cloud to intelligence to devices — empowering your organization to embrace whatever comes next.”