Windows 365 is less complex but not as flexible as Azure Virtual Desktop.

Jeffrey Schwartz

July 15, 2021

5 Min Read
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MICROSOFT INSPIRE — Microsoft’s launch of Windows 365 Cloud PC will bring a new way for managed service providers (MSPs) to deliver desktops as a service. Revealed Wednesday at the Microsoft Inspire partner event, it’s a simpler, though less flexible alternative to Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD).

Set for release on Aug. 2, Windows 365 promises to broaden the reach of cloud-hosted desktop computing. It will stream Windows 10 – and eventually Windows 11 and apps – to PCs, Macs, tablets and phones. Windows 365 will work from iOS and Android devices, and with a Linux client now in development. It will also stream Microsoft 365 apps, including Teams and Office.

“With Windows 365, we are making Windows available not just on Windows devices, but any device harnessing the power of the cloud,” Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said during the opening keynote at Inspire. “This has never been done before. Think about it, just like applications were brought to the cloud with SaaS, we are now bringing the operating system to the cloud with Windows 365.”

Microsoft will offer Windows 365 as a per-user, per-month subscription service. It will be available directly online, from OEMs, VARs or through MSPs, according to Microsoft 365 general manager Wangui McKelvey.


Microsoft’s Wangui McKelvey at Inspire 2021

“Whether it’s a business of hundreds or a business of one, we’ve made setup and management easy with a web-based admin experience that only requires an internet connection to work,” McKelvey said during a session at Inspire on Thursday. “Windows 365 simplifies procurement, deployment, management and updates because unlike other solutions, it uses virtualization behind the scenes.”

Compatible with Existing Infrastructure

Windows 365 will work with organizations’ existing infrastructure. It integrates natively with Azure Active Directory, Microsoft Defender, Microsoft 365 applications and Microsoft Endpoint Manager, McKelvey explained.

“It requires no special skills or previous experience with virtualization, because it allows IT to use the same tools they use today,” she said.

Microsoft will not disclose pricing until Aug. 1, the day before Windows 365 becomes available. Pricing will depend on configuration such as the number of cores, memory and storage selected. It will be available in two versions: basic business and enterprise.

The basic version is completely managed by Microsoft, whereas customers and MSPs can managed the enterprise edition.


Nerdio’s Joseph Landes

“With the business edition, there’s no direct admin access; there’s zero flexibility, but there are some people who want that,” said Joseph Landes, chief revenue officer of Nerdio. “I think we’ll see the more sophisticated MSPs probably offering the Enterprise Windows 365 SKU where it’s customer-managed and its more flexible.”

Windows 365 vs. Azure Virtual Desktop

Landes believes MSPs that have avoided Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) – until recently called Windows Virtual Desktop – will be more likely to offer Windows 365.

“I think that we’ll see a lot of MSPs who have resisted moving to the cloud move to offer Windows 365,” he said.

Conceptually, Windows 365 is similar to AVD. Both are Azure-hosted services that stream Windows desktops and apps to remote devices. But AVD, which Nerdio already offers, is more flexible, through also more complex, said Landes.

“Among other things, AVD is a multiuser Windows client, whereas Microsoft Windows 365 is for …

… a named user. It’s a one-to-one virtual machine, so it’s simpler by nature, versus multiuser Windows 10,” said Jason Mattox, CTO of Liquidware.

Mattox said Windows 365 is likely to appeal to SMBs and those who want more predictable pricing. AVD is priced based on compute time.

“When you start scaling resources, it really goes up in price,” Mattox said.

McKelvey said Microsoft wants to widen the reach of cloud desktops.

“Our goal is to offer choice and to make the power of hybrid cloud computing accessible for everyone, regardless of size or skill set with Azure virtual desktop and Windows 365,” she said.

Launch Partners

Nerdio, one of four Windows 365 launch partners, participated in a private preview of Windows 365. Landes said he plans to offer both Windows 365 and AVD. Nerdio announced it will also offer Windows 365 with the option of using Teradici’s high-definition virtual PCoIP protocol.

The other three launch partners are NetApp, ServiceNow and UKG. NetAp is offering Windows 365 with Spot PC, which will offer multitenant management of cloud desktops.

“The combined solution streamlines and simplifies onboarding, deployment and management of services, and provides unified management from a single pane of glass, making it easy for partners to drill into specific tenants and address any issues,” according to a post by NetApp EVP NetApp Anthony Lye.

ServiceNow said it has worked with Microsoft to integrate Windows 365 to its IT service management (ITSM) and Virtual Agent.

“This integration lets users quickly and easily request, approve and receive their Cloud PCs,” according to a post by Matt Schvimmer, VP and general manager of SericeNow’s ITSM business unit.

ServiceNow customers will be able to request Cloud PCs directly through Microsoft Teams workflows, he added.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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