Windows-as-an-app is coming | Computerworld


My first computer was an IBM 360 mainframe. To use it, I relied on a 3270 terminal. From there, I quickly moved on to a PDP-11 minicomputer running Unix — where my interface was a VT-102 terminal.

In those days, all the computing power was remote. Then, CP/M, Apple, and IBM PCs changed everything. And the desktop became where power lived. That was then; this is now. Today, we’re moving back to remote computing and from the PC to cloud-based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offerings such as Windows 365.

This is exactly what Microsoft has wanted for years. Don’t believe me? Check out Windows App, Microsoft’s gateway to all its remote Windows offerings.

Windows App, which is still in beta, will let you connect to Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365, Microsoft Dev Box, Remote Desktop Services, and remote PCs from, well, pretty much any computing device. Specifically, you can use it from Macs, iPhones, iPads, other Windows machines, and — pay attention! — web browsers.

That last part means you’ll be able to run Windows from Linux-powered PCs, Chromebooks, and Android phones and tablets.

So, if you’ve been stuck running Windows because your boss insists that you can’t get your job done from a Chromebook, Linux PC, or Mac, your day has come. You can still run the machine you want and use Windows for only those times you require Windows-specific software.

Mind you, you’ve been able to do that for some time. As I pointed out recently, all the Windows software vendors don’t want you to run standalone Windows applications; they prefer web-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. They can make a lot more money from you by insisting you pay a monthly subscription rather than a one-time payment.

Sure, Microsoft made its first billions from Windows and the PC desktop, but that hasn’t been its business plan for years now. As Zac Bowden, a senior editor at Windows Central, recently spotted in a June 2022 Microsoft internal presentation, the company  plans to “Move Windows 11 increasingly to the cloud: Build on Windows 365 to enable a full Windows operating system streamed from the cloud to any device. Use the power of the cloud and client to enable improved AI-powered services and full roaming of people’s digital experience.”

This move was coming long before Microsoft fell in love with AI. I saw Microsoft switching people to Windows DaaS coming down the road in 2018. Windows App will just make it easier than ever.

How easy is it? Very.

For example, you’ll be able to use Windows remotely via browsers using ancient versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and, of course, Edge. Essentially, if your web browser supports HTML5, you should be good to go.

From a browser, you’ll be able to redirect your local devices, such as a printer, microphones, cameras, and your location, as well as audio, and clipboard to your remote session. If you redirect your local clipboard to your remote session, you can copy and paste text.

Microsoft is confusing, though, when it comes to copying and moving files. One part says you can, another part — on the same web page — says you can’t. Stay tuned.

Not all remote Windows services are supported, yet. Microsoft says you’ll be able to use remote desktop PCs, for example, but not at the moment. Support is coming, though..

To harness Windows App, you must upgrade to the latest version of Windows 365. You must also, for now, have a business or student account.  If you qualify, upon launching Windows 365, you’ll be greeted with an invitation to explore the Windows App’s features through an interactive tour. Post-tour, you can access the “Home” screen to connect with remote devices or apps, aided by intuitive filters designed to streamline the search process.

From this customizable Home screen, you can use multiple services and PCs from one screen — although I wouldn’t try this on a smartphone. Windows App will enable you to use multiple monitors with custom and dynamic display resolutions, and scaling. So, if you like running multiple displays, as I do, you’d be able to run your personal desktop on one display while running a remote Windows session on another.

It all looks interesting. But, as Microsoft warns, “Windows App is currently in PREVIEW.”  Windows app “may be substantially modified before it’s released. Microsoft makes no warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to the information provided here.”

At this point, I’d tinker with it. After all, like it or not, this is Windows’ future. But I wouldn’t think about using it for production anytime soon.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.



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