Windows 10 upgrades

Microsoft offers cloud-based version of Windows as home working ramps up

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Microsoft has announced that businesses will soon be able to access its Windows operating system directly from the cloud, potentially allowing them to cut the amount of physical hardware they need to maintain and operate on site.

Dubbed Windows 365, the service will allow the full Windows 10 experience, including apps, data and settings, to be accessed directly from Microsoft’s Azure cloud. It will secure and store information in the cloud rather than on the device.

Windows 365 will also create a new hybrid personal computing category called Cloud PC, which uses both the power of the cloud and the capabilities of the device it’s being used on.

“With Windows 365, we’re creating a new category: the Cloud PC,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“Just like applications were brought to the cloud with SaaS [software as a service], we are now bringing the operating system to the cloud, providing organisations with greater flexibility and a secure way to empower their workforce to be more productive and connected, regardless of location.”

Microsoft believes the new platform is particularly relevant to the recent shift in working patterns and a broad shift to home working since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic last year, hacking activity against corporations in the US and other countries more than doubled as cyber criminals took advantage of weakened security that resulted from home working policies.

“Hybrid work has fundamentally changed the role of technology in organisations today,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Microsoft 365.

“Today’s announcement of Windows 365 is just the beginning of what will be possible as we blur the lines between the device and the cloud.”

Windows 365 offers users “instant-on boot” to their personal desktop, as well as allowing IT departments to scale up or down the processing power and storage as required.

The service will roll out on 2 August and can be accessed by anyone with access to a web browser compatible with HTML 5, a standard broadly supported by all the major browsers.

Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research, said the move would help Microsoft defend its dominant market share in the face of strong competition from operating systems from Apple and Google that are easier for schools and businesses to manage.

Microsoft unveiled Windows 11 last month which features a new, centred Start menu, the ability to run Android apps, and various gaming features. It comes nearly six years since the release of Windows 10, which Microsoft originally said would be the last version of the operating system.

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