Could Windows 11 be Microsoft’s last operating system?

…And why this is adding pressure to an already over-stretched in-house IT department

After months of speculation, Microsoft finally unveiled Windows 365 for Windows 10 and 11, allowing users to stream a Windows desktop to any device, and from any location.

Although it was rumored that Windows 10 would be ‘the last version of Windows’, Microsoft’s 365 is purpose built for this new world of work – giving users, quite literally, a window to the cloud.

Could this be an indication that Windows 11 will be Microsoft’s last operating system before it moves to a cloud-based model completely?

Spoiler – it could be.

How will cloud PCs shake up the digital workplace?

Cloud PCs, like Windows 365, are aimed at the consumer market and more specifically, SMEs. This is because of the versatility and simplicity its system offers, and that it acts as an entry point to more developed systems like Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD).

Businesses can add 1 – 10 users, making it a flexible desktop which removes the additional cost pressures that in-house IT departments are faced with when having to invest in high spec laptops to facilitate productivity for homeworking members of staff.

Providing consistency of experience, whether at home or in the office, and ensuring all employees are set up with the same tools and equipment, means cloud-based PCs are an attractive option for businesses looking to boost productivity and tighten their security parameters.

365 gives users the chance to dip their toes into the world of virtual desktops, to really get a feel for how the familiar system works – and to see if it meets requirements. But, when it comes to scaling up, the cost of doing so on Windows 365 compared to AVD is perhaps more daunting for organisations – and it’s at this point these businesses may migrate from Windows 365 to Azure Virtual Desktop.

Effective, simple and easy to manage – but at what cost?

Cloud PCs enable a more cost effective and simplified deployment, licensing and overall management of remote desktops, but this may come at the cost of flexibility due to Microsoft’s chosen approach to the Desktop as a Service (DaaS) model.

Microsoft’s 365 arguably has some limitations when it comes to the monthly subscription charge to enable 24-hour access 7-days a week, compared with Azure Virtual Desktop’s option to reduce costs by only paying for access 5-days a week, for example. Additionally, the only way to manage Windows 365, and push out policies, is through the fully integrated Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

When using Azure Virtual Desktop, companies have the option to use session hosts to help reduce running costs, but this feature isn’t one you will find in Windows 365 – where essentially, you ‘rent’ a machine. What’s more is that Microsoft recently announced that it will be making some changes to its pricing for 365, which could have a big impact on the per user cost.

Will the switch to cloud bring more stress for in-house IT departments?

The move to cloud-based PC models will solve a lot of in-house IT headaches by ensuring all employees are working on the same system, using a familiar interface and provided with an extra layer of protection against cybercriminals. However, there are some hurdles that will need to be overcome.

Though some businesses are already using Microsoft Intune or Endpoint Manager, it is likely that companies will have to learn how to use these new management tools in addition to familiarising themselves enough with Windows 365 or Azure Virtual Desktop in order to provide staff training. AVD is arguably more flexible than Windows 365, and deploying and managing these cloud PCs will require a certain level of knowledge, and time.

Your system security is only as good as your policies. Cloud PCs will offer more protection, but companies should not rely on these features to stay protected. Remote desktops should be treated in the same way as a corporate desktop – you can’t just rely on Microsoft to give you security.

Is Azure Virtual Desktop still the most cost-effective option?

If you like the concept of a cloud PC, but the switching and operation costs are a concern, Azure Virtual Desktop offers almost identical functionality to Windows 365, but with added extras. For example, users benefit from a shutdown service when the desktop isn’t in use, session hosts, and can tailor the amount of days access needed, and with better monitoring functionality.

Windows 365 users are tied to Endpoint Manager, but Azure Virtual Desktop provides support for any issues that its users are experiencing, assists with group policies, and offers Intune as a management option.

Is Windows 11 the last operating system?

If ‘Windows 12’ is going to differentiate itself from the growing and competitive market, then there is a possibility that cloud will be its focus.

This doesn’t necessarily negate the chance of Windows 12 bringing something new and ready to stir up the industry – but it’s likely Microsoft is now watching us very closely to see how we are working with its new model before making any rash decisions.

About the Author

Toby Skerritt is Principal Architect at Foundation IT. Foundation IT’s Managed IaaS and Azure IaaS solutions and services are designed for people who believe their IT Infrastructure should be consumed as a service. We are focused on people who want a trusted partner to manage their infrastructure. We promise that engaging with our service will give clients the freedom they need to make change happen without the hassle of managing their IT Infrastructure.

Featured image: ©Mariakray