Microsoft will release Windows as a paid cloud service, promising to stream the operating system to any device in an attempt to create what the tech giant describes as a new category of computing called the Cloud PC.
Yes, this means Windows is coming to Mac, iPad, Linux, and Android.
The company announced the service, Windows 365, on Wednesday morning, saying it will be generally available for businesses and organizations of all sizes in early August. Specific pricing has not yet been announced.
“With Windows 365, we are making Windows available not just on Windows devices, but any device, harnessing the power of the cloud,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, announcing the service at the company’s Inspire virtual partner conference. “This has never been done before.”
That actually depends on how you define “this.”
Microsoft, for one, already offers an existing service dubbed the Azure Virtual Desktop that streams Windows to computers. However, Microsoft is promising to streamline both the implementation and pricing of Windows 365. It will charge a flat rate rather than the consumption-based fee structure for Azure Virtual Desktop, notes Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet.
In the broader scheme of things, it’s a landmark moment, a long time coming. Throughout much of its history, Microsoft has relied heavily on traditional Windows licensing fees as a key source of revenue, and protected its flagship operating system as a central pillar of its business.
However, the company has steadily shifted its approach under Nadella, opening itself up to new approaches enabled by the cloud.
“Just like applications were brought to the cloud with SaaS, we are now bringing the operating system to the cloud with Windows 365,” Nadella said. “With Windows 365, the operating system itself becomes hybrid-accessible on the device as well as the cloud. With just a few clicks, you can set up your Cloud PC and stream the full Windows experience from the Microsoft Cloud to a personal or corporate device. It’s that straightforward.”
Options will be available for the installation of Windows 10 or Windows 11 after the next version of the operating system is released.