- Thanks to a new Microsoft service, you may soon be able to run Windows in the cloud.
- Windows 11 in the cloud could run advanced applications with minimal hardware requirements.
- Experts say cloud computing demands a fast internet connection.
Your next Windows PC might be streaming its operating system from the cloud.
Microsoft is reportedly planning to make Windows 11 a cloud streaming service. The service could allow anybody to subscribe to a Windows PC hosted in the cloud. Experts say the cloud arrangement could beat traditional PCs for many users.
“With a cloud instance, you can get a far more powerful computing platform that would be impractical if not impossible to cram into a laptop,” Anthony Brunello, the co-founder of virtual server company ADTAQ, told Lifewire in an email interview. “Compute heavy applications like image and video processing software could leverage that extra power, and the user could use it just like a desktop after connecting from a laptop or tablet.”
Windows in the Cloud
“Users can access their cloud PC from anywhere in the world with nothing more than a PC running Windows 11,” he added. “This can enable a user to keep their current PC for a long time, perhaps a decade or more, as it is a terminal to the cloud system.”
Cloud-hosted PCs generally have much lower performance than traditional PCs, Gibbs pointed out. Also, he said, hosted PCs are typically more expensive than a conventional PC.
“However, hosted PCs have the advantage in that you can get one in minutes, and you don’t have to worry about hardware failures as they are managed by the cloud provider,” he added.
Devices running from the cloud could be optimized for battery efficiency instead of compute power since all of the actual processing is taking place in the cloud, Brunello said. File transfers to and from the Windows 365 instance would be lightning fast, running at cloud data center speeds.
“So even if the user was connected over a slow cell phone connection, their productivity would not be hampered,” he added. “All their connection has to support is ‘drawing the screen’ of what’s happening on the Windows 365 instance in the cloud.”
This isn’t just a passing tech trend; it’s a shift in how we engage with technology.
Drawback of Cloud Computing
Not every situation lends itself to running Windows in the cloud. If you’ve got a slow internet connection running via a mobile phone, that’s one place users will notice the difference between a Windows 365 cloud instance and Windows on a PC, Brunello said. With a PC running Windows directly, you can still access your files and do many tasks without any internet connection at all.
Compared to having Windows on your PC, the cloud version allows for seamless updates and maintenance by Microsoft, software developer Rajeev Bera told Lifewire in an email interview. “It also reduces the reliance on your device’s hardware capabilities,” he added. “However, it does necessitate a steady, high-quality internet connection for a smooth user experience.”
Comparing Windows 365 in the cloud to having Windows 365 on your PC, there are notable differences, cloud solutions engineer Vladislav Bilay said via email.
“When using Windows 365 on a local PC, the performance and experience are contingent on the device’s specifications and capabilities,” he added. “Users need to ensure they have the necessary hardware resources to run demanding applications. In contrast, with Windows 365 in the cloud, the user’s device becomes a mere interface to access the virtual Windows PC hosted in the cloud. This means that even low-end devices can provide a high-quality Windows experience as the heavy lifting is done by Microsoft’s servers.”
Of course, Microsoft’s not alone in the cloud arena. Google’s Chrome OS is a contender that’s been making strides in the world of cloud-based operating systems, pointed out Goran Luledzija, the CEO of Localizely, in an email to Lifewire. But he said that Chrome is a different beast, favoring a simplistic, browser-focused approach that lacks the comprehensive feature set of a full-blown Windows OS. With Windows 365, Microsoft is bringing the full power of Windows to the cloud.
“This isn’t just a passing tech trend; it’s a shift in how we engage with technology,” Luledzija said. “Windows 365 is poised to reshape our understanding of personal computing, making it more accessible, adaptable, and inclusive. A world where your digital workspace is always within reach, ready to get to work.”
Update 7/13/2023: Corrected the bio link for a source in paragraph 3.