Microsoft announced yesterday the first public availability of its “Cloud PC”, Windows 365, and they have already reached capacity a day later:
Due to significant demand, we have reached the trial capability of Windows 365. Sign up to be notified when testing resumes or purchase today, here: https://t.co/Jji5RbfTbT
– Microsoft 365 (@ Microsoft365) August 3, 2021
Here at OnMSFT.com, we are already Microsoft 365 users and operate our site on Azure. In other words, we “eat dog food”. Our editors are on a “Business Basic” plan, which means we get Teams (which we use every day as a chat app), Planner (also used every day), and the management features to add new writers or move from the old ones to the easy and straightforward ones. We don’t pay for downloadable Office because it’s not essential to what we do, but for $ 5MB per user, the Business Basic plan works well for us.
Windows 365 is aimed (so far) for businesses and businesses, and especially Office users, so much so that a requirement of Windows 365 is at least a Business Premium account, because Office is automatically installed on Windows 365 (at least in the generic trial version offers). To try out Windows 365, we set our system account to “Business Premium” (increasing the price to $ 20 / month, but adding Office and some Azure Active Directory features, as well as Microsoft Endpoint Manager, also needed for Windows 365) .
After assigning the Business Premium account to the system and adding a Windows 365 license (we chose a 2vCPU / 8 GB / 128 GB machine for $ 45 / month) and assigning it, the commissioning of the Windows 365 machine was quite simple. We appeared to be stuck during installation, but after about 30 minutes we were able to move on by refreshing the browser.
Once Windows 365 is installed, you are redirected to windows365.microsoft.com, the Windows 365 management portal:
From there, you just need to click on “Open in browser” for the machine you want to open under “Your Cloud PCs”. From there, you are redirected to Windows 365, running in your browser. A note here, even with minimal internet connection (here in rural northeast Washington, the internet is unreliable at best, and speeds of 20 Mbps down / 2-3 Mbps up are at about as good as it gets), Windows 365 seems to perform as well as you might expect. Of course, paying more for a faster VM would help, but the internet connection doesn’t seem to be an issue.
We’ll be diving more into Windows 365 in the days and weeks to come, including signing in to Windows 365 from an Android phone and / or Remote Desktop connection, running Windows in the cloud, and managing from the Cloud PC. (another note, we tried to install Windows 11: we were able to register for the Windows Insider program, download and install Windows 11. However, the machine was unable to restart and now we are resetting it to a fresh install of Windows 10. Hey, you had to try!).
So far the first impressions are that it seems to be working as expected. It’s a full version of Windows in the cloud, with easy management and deployment, and a range of size and speed options. Trying our Windows 11 experience, connecting Windows 365 to Windows Update, etc. seemed very slow, and resetting the PC also takes a long time. It’s hard to say how much of that is a 2vCPU / 8gb machine, and how many are limited resources for the Windows 365 VM program, but update / reset / install speeds have not been impressive so far.
Windows 365 is also expensive. You can get a really good modern Windows 10 laptop for the price of a year, even with low-end Windows 365 setups. Is it worth it, even for business scenarios like accessing a PC from anywhere, to run Windows in the cloud instead of just buying PCs? Maybe with volume licensing it might make more sense, but for those looking for a consumer version of Windows 365, you might be better off buying a $ 800 PC.
Either way, we’ll continue to play around with Windows 365 and report not only on performance, but also on management and deployment. The bottom line is, if Windows in the cloud makes sense for your business, first impressions are that Windows 365 may well match that bill.