Microsoft Updating Windows 365 for Hybrid and Remote Work Era

As part of its broader effort to support hybrid office scenarios, Microsoft is planning several Windows 365 enhancements aimed at people expecting to work remotely, at least some of the time.

Panos Panay, Microsoft's chief product officer for Windows and devices, described Microsoft's operating systems, services and tooling for supporting this remote-work trend on Tuesday in this announcement and in this hybrid work video with CEO Satya Nadella.

Windows 365, is Microsoft's desktop-as-a-service offering that was commercially released in August 2021. With Windows 365, users remotely access Windows desktops (which Microsoft calls "Cloud PCs"), which are virtual machines hosted on Microsoft's servers. Windows 365 users can use any type of device (Android, Linux, macOS and Windows) to access those Cloud PCs.

New Windows 365 improvements will be arriving, but Microsoft's announcements for the most part didn't indicate the timing. The new features, announced on Tuesday, were mostly user experience improvements, but a perk for IT pros using the Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) solution was also mentioned.

MEM Management of Azure AD-Joined Cloud PCs
MEM users will be getting a new capability for managing Azure AD-joined Cloud PCs, which will be coming next month.

The Windows 365 service gets managed via Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) management solution, with so-called Cloud PCs (virtual machines) serving as the end users' desktops. As a new addition, Microsoft is planning to add the ability to manage Azure Active Directory-joined Cloud PCs using MEM. This Azure AD-joined Cloud PC capability is expected to reach "general availability" commercial release sometime "in May."

Windows 365 User Perks
Microsoft also announced various user experience improvements for Windows 365. To come will be a new and more user-friendly "native" app, plus boot and switch features, as well as a new offline capability.

The offline capability lets users access their Cloud PCs while disconnected from the Internet, either accidentally or intentionally. When users reconnect, their changes get synchronized with the Windows 365 service "without data loss," Microsoft explained.

Microsoft is adding a boot feature to the Windows 365 service, as well. It's based on users specifying that their Cloud PC is their "primary Windows experience" on the device. The boot feature permits users to directly access their Cloud PCs at system startup. Windows 365 boot is also conceived as being helpful for organizations that use shared devices among users. It will permit "different users to log in directly" to their Cloud PCs on a device, Microsoft explained.

A new switch feature for Windows 365 will be coming. It will let users switch between their Cloud PC and the device's local desktop. The Windows 365 switch feature was described as being similar to the Windows Task Switcher feature, with support for the same keyboard shortcuts.

Exactly when these new features for Windows 365 users will be available wasn't described.

Some of these features are shown in this Microsoft Mechanics video featuring Scott Manchester, lead engineer on the Windows 365 team. Manchester credited the new capabilities to Windows 11, which is enabling Microsoft to add Cloud PC capabilities directly into the Windows shell.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.