Microsoft moves Windows into the cloud to cut the cost of computing

Microsoft is picking up the tab for your next PC, sort of

Windows is moving to the cloud
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has decided to wage war on computers, it seems. The company is now offering an entirely cloud-based way to run a Windows desktop. It’s called Windows 365 and it will allow any basic computer, phone or tablet to run a connection to its cloud-hosted Windows installs. Initially it will be aimed at business, but with Microsoft investing in cloud gaming, perhaps this could be a solution for home users too.

The idea is nothing desperately new. For some time it’s been possible to connect to Windows machines in the cloud. Essentially you’re using a slightly tweaked version of the remote desktop to control a distant machine. Of course optimisations are needed to keep the experience smooth, which Microsoft will no doubt do a great job of. 

Initially the system will run on Windows 10, but later on Windows 11 will be added. It’s not clear how a system like this would operate with corporate networks, but we’ll know more when it officially launches on August 2. 

The advantages for business users are massive. You no longer need to give staff powerful machines. They could use anything from a Chromebook through to a simple low-power desktop PC to access the service. Users can decide how much power they need on the remote machine. Options appear to start with a dual-core CPU, 4GB of ram and 64GB of storage. In the middle there are four-cores, 16GB and 256GB of storage and the top end looks to have an octa-core, 32GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. 

While the big selling point here is a Windows install in the cloud, it also means that people get more flexibility. If your work PC lives in the cloud, then if you aren’t able to go to work because someone coughs on you, then you can simply stay home and access the same machine from there. Likewise, if your work PC explodes, just whip out an iPad and work from that. One might argue that Office 365 offers similar, but now you’ll also be able to keep your motivational kitten desktop wallpaper too. 

How could this expand later? Well, imagine buying an Xbox Series X instead of a laptop and using it to connect to Windows in the cloud. That’s a far better use of your money than a boring laptop, just hook up a keyboard and mouse and you’re working instead of playing. Devices like the iPad Pro also have external monitor support, so you could just connect up one of those too. 

While this does appear to be a solid idea, and Microsoft presumably knows that there is demand for it, there is an argument to be made that computing is getting cheaper. Apple has shown us that custom ARM hardware can produce fantastic results. If Microsoft’s version of Windows for ARM is credible, then home computers could see a substantial price drop and still have loads of power. 

That said, offering a scalable cloud solution could change how we work. No more chunky business travel clutching a meaty laptop, just a slim tablet that connects to your trusty Windows 365 cloud computer. 

Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited about how tech can make your life better.