Microsoft recently launched Windows App, a new centralized hub for accessing Windows desktops, apps, and services hosted in the Azure cloud. The move aims to deliver Windows as a fully cloud-streamed operating system across platforms.
Windows App has native apps for Windows, macOS, iOS and iPadOS. It can also run on any desktop browser across operating systems, including ChromeOS.
The technical requirement is minimal – just ChromeOS 57 or later. This enables unprecedented cross-platform support for streaming Windows.
– Unified access hub: It consolidates access to multiple Windows streaming options like Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365 Cloud PCs, Remote Desktop Services and remote session hosts under one roof.
– Customizable home screen: Users can pin favorite desktops and apps to the home screen for quick access. It also supports easy account switching for handling multiple workspaces.
– Multi-monitor support: Users can configure multiple monitors with custom resolutions and dynamic scaling to suit various workloads when streaming Windows.
– Peripheral redirection: Local webcams, mics, printers, storage devices can be redirected for availability in remote sessions.
– Optimized for Microsoft Teams: Tuned for optimal Microsoft Teams experience when using streamed Windows.
– Touch optimization: Windows 10 and 11 touch gestures are supported for hybrid touch-based devices.
The launch aligns with Microsoft’s internal strategy documents around moving Windows to the cloud in order to compete better against “modern” cloud-centric OSes like ChromeOS that dominate business and education markets.
By packaging Windows inside a tightly integrated streaming experience via Windows App rather than as a separate bolted-on virtualization tool, Microsoft hopes to reduce barriers in adopting cloud-hosted Windows.
This approach helps transition customers invested in Windows ecosystem to efficiently use Windows in the cloud.
Nonetheless, purpose-built cloud OSes like ChromeOS retain inherent advantages from being designed exclusively for cloud rather than adapting legacy code.
It remains to be seen whether running decades old Windows code in the cloud can match the performance, security and simplicity expected from natively cloud-based OSes.
But Windows App opens up Windows streaming to more platforms – a definite competitive hedge for Microsoft against ChromeOS’ growth.