Microsoft announced the Windows 365 Cloud PC on the 14th of July 2021 at Microsoft Inspire 2021. Windows 365, also known as the cloud PC is a new cloud service that introduces a new world of working and experience using Windows 10/11. Windows365 takes the traditional PC operating system to the cloud. This is the full experience of apps, data and settings to your Personal or corporate devices.
It has long been known that you can deliver a desktop experience to users using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and recent strides in the cloud era have presented new technologies and capabilities like Azure Virtual Desktop. So what is the fundamental difference between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop? Let’s just say this article goes into the details between the two.
What is Windows 365, aka Cloud PC
The Cloud PC (Windows 365) is a new saas based service from Microsoft that allows you to roam all your settings to a cloud PC from your traditional physical windows device. You would expect to see Desktop, wallpapers, favourites, browser history, etc, roaming between these devices.
The cloud PC is a persistent Windows PC that is always connected. This means the cloud PC can be accessed 24/7. This is effectively a personal pc centralised and supported in the cloud as a SaaS offering.
Azure Virtual Desktop provides access to Virtual Desktops through Microsoft Azure using a control plane and the consumption of virtual machines within a subscription. The cost of this service is based on resource consumption within Microsoft Azure.
Windows365 cost model is a fixed price per named user per month. Costs are based on size and performance. This means that you can control costs more stringently compared to consumption model billing. This looks like an excellent option for those organisations that have tight IT budgets. Interestingly, after speaking with businesses, it was noted that some would like to mix both cloud desktops and Azure Virtual Desktop. One example is delivering apps to the Cloud PC via Azure Virtual Desktop Remote apps.
Pricing has not been officially confirmed; however, the following lists the release Cloud PC specs:
|VM / OS disk size||Example scenarios||Recommended apps|
|1vCPU / 2GB / 64GB||Frontline workers, Call centers, Education/training/CRM access.||Office light (web-based), Microsoft Edge, OneDrive, lightweight line-of-business app (e.g. call center application – web-apps), Defender support.|
|2vCPU / 4GB / 256GB 2vCPU / 4GB / 128GB 2vCPU / 4GB / 64GB||Mergers and acquisition, Short-term and seasonal, Customer Services, Bring-Your-Own-PC, Work from home||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams (audio-only), Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, Line-of-business app(s) , Defender support.|
|2vCPU / 8GB / 256GB 2vCPU / 8GB / 128GB||Bring-Your-Own-PC, Work from home, Market Researchers, Government, consultants||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, Line-of-business app(s) , Defender support.|
|4vCPU / 16GB / 512GB 4vCPU / 16GB / 256GB 4vCPU / 16GB / 128GB||Finance, Government, consultants, Healthcare services, Bring-Your-Own-PC, Work from home||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, PowerBi, Dynamics 365, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, Line-of-business app(s), Defender support.|
|8vCPU / 32GB / 512GB 8vCPU / 32GB / 256GB 8vCPU / 32GB / 128GB||Software developers, engineers, Content Creators, Design and Engineering workstations||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Access, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, PowerBi, Visual Studio Code, Line-of-business app(s), Defender support.|
Differences between Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365 Cloud PC (Enterprise)
Let us take a look at the specific differences between Azure Virtual Desktop and the Windows 365 cloud PC:
|Azure Virtual Desktop||Windows 365 Cloud PC (Enterprise)|
|Cloud VDI Solution||SaaS Solution|
|Windows 10 Single Session & Multi-Session Desktops and Remote Apps||Windows 10 Single Session|
|Full control over management and deployment (?) – You can use whichever tool you want (SCCM/Intune/Third-party)?||Simplified/ SAS Management only with MEM Intune|
|Citrix, VMWare integration||NA|
|Consumption-Based Pricing||Per-user pricing|
You will need one of the following licences to be able to use the Cloud PC (enterprise Version):
- Users with Windows Pro endpoints: Windows 10 Enterprise E3 + EMS E3 or Microsoft 365 F3/E3/E5/BP
- Users w/non-Windows Pro endpoints: Windows VDA E3 + EMS E3 or Microsoft 365 F3/E3/F5/BP
You will need the following Azure and other MS services;
- Azure Subscription
- A Virtual Network (vNET) in the chosen Azure Subscription. You can still use Network Virtual Appliances which offer Endpoint Detection and response capabilities.
- Azure vNET Virtual Network must route to the DNS to resolve Active Directory records (no change here)
- AD must sync with Azure AD to provide hybrid Identity in Azure AD
- Microsoft Intune supported licences like Microsoft 365 E3
The following table shows the supported clients that you can use Cloud PC on:
|Teams AV Redirection||X|
|Multi-media redirection||Coming soon|
|Screen capture protection||X|
|Start menu integration||X|
|Microphones||X||X||Coming soon||X||X||In preview|
|Printers||X||X (CUPS only)||PDF print|
Video from Microsoft Mechanics with Scott Manchester demoing Windows365
API access to configure integration:
Tech specs and configuration guide for requirements:
Feature requests link:
Windows365 lab steps:
Interactive Windows365 Demo
How do you backup files, apps and other data?
The use of Microsoft OneDrive will take care of all requires files as used today on other platforms. You can Also use Winget to export the list of applications so that if you do need to build fresh, you can use the import feature in Winget to restore apps.
There are third parties out there that you can use to back up the cloud PC to a Virtual Hard disk.
Can you use MSIX app attach ?
You can use the built-in apis offered by the windows Operating system to deliver apps using MSIX app attach. However you would need to use third-party products to deliver this.
Can you still access corporate networks ?
Enterprise uses the Azure Virtual Network making it easy to add connectivity to office locations. However, if you are using the business version, you would most likely need an SSL VPN product or the point to site VPN feature offered in Azure Connect to a VNet using P2S VPN & certificate authentication: portal – Azure VPN Gateway | Microsoft Docs
What about performance, Azure Virtual Desktop still does fully support UDP apart from shortpath?
Its understood at the time of writing, connectivity to the cloud PC is via TCP. Details on this are still unknown.
UPD Update – its coming soon:
Can you configure user profiles?
Windows 365 uses traditional Profiles as you would do on a normal physical device.
Can you use Active directory with Cloud PC (Windows 365) ?
For the business version of cloud pc, only Azure AD join is supported. So you cannot use AD DS as an option.
For the Enterprise version, you can use Hybrid AD Join and Azure Active Directory Domain Services is not supported.