March 27, 2023
What's next for Windows?  A radical new strategy for cloud, ads and devices?

What’s next for Windows? A radical new strategy for cloud, ads and devices?

Credit: Microsoft

In April this year, Windows officials talked about plans to integrate Windows 365 and Windows more tightly. So far, they’ve delivered on one of their promises: a Windows 365 app preview that Windows 11 users can pin to their taskbars and Start menus for easier access to their cloud PCs. But Microsoft officials have much bigger plans for Windows 365 and are apparently counting on it to keep Windows relevant even as the PC industry declines in the months and years to come.

As many users have noticed, Microsoft is showing more and more ads in everything from the new Windows 11 search box to the Edge browser (and its other apps). So it’s perhaps not too surprising that Microsoft’s management presents Windows as a vehicle to serve ads – both first-party Microsoft “in-house” ads and third-party ads, as Microsoft itself has acknowledged CEO Satya Nadella during Microsoft’s FY23 first quarter earnings call. (Thanks to Paul Thurrott for pointing this out in Windows Weekly last week.)

But there are even more ambitious plans to create a new Windows business model, as evidenced by several recent job postings for the “newly formed Windows incubation team” on Microsoft’s career site.

This team seeks to tie Windows and Windows 365 even more tightly by creating “a web shell with direct integration with Windows 365”.

The end game? Sell ‚Äč‚Äčthin/low-cost client devices to businesses and consumers and offset costs through advertisements and subscriptions.

Also: Mary Jo Foley on 16 Epic Years Covering Microsoft for ZDNET

From the workstation:

“The building blocks we are creating will chart a new direction for the Windows experience and business model – from low-cost PCs powered by advertising and subscriptions, to new hardware devices straight to the cloud at work and in life. .”

Microsoft made its Windows 365/Cloud PC service (codenamed Deschutes) generally available in August 2021. Windows 365 is a cloud-based virtualization service that builds on and complements Azure Virtual Desktop. Windows 365 is for business users only at this point and costs between $20 and $162 per user per month depending on cores, RAM, and storage. But given that the Windows 365 Business SKU can be scaled down for businesses with a single employee, it’s not too surprising that Microsoft officials are already thinking about how to deliver Windows 365 to consumers.

Microsoft quietly moved the Windows 365 team under chief product officer and Windows chief Panos Panay in July. In addition to the Windows 365 app, the team is working on Windows 365 Boot, which will allow users to boot directly to their cloud PCs; Windows 365 Switch, which will allow users to move between their local and cloud PCs as easily as they can move between different offices today; and Windows 365 offline, the ability to resynchronize with the Windows 365 service without data loss. Microsoft hasn’t provided public delivery targets for any of these features, but did demonstrate the Switch feature during a virtual “Technical Takeoff” session last week.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s WebXT organization, which includes “several thousand software engineers” working on Bing, Search, Edge, Maps, Ads, News and other products, is pushing ahead with its own set of deliverables for consumers and business users. The team has worked extensively on machine learning, speech, computer vision, and natural language processing, which they have incorporated into all of the products mentioned above.

It seems that at least some customers are already wondering aloud if and when Microsoft and other PC makers will build thin client-like devices for use with Windows 365. Who knows… Maybe there is. there’s a Surface Win365book on the roadmap somewhere?

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