Microsoft may be working on a cloud-based version of Windows to go alongside Office 365. What would be in it for customers?
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With its Office and server products, Microsoft already straddles the line between the old world of standalone software licenses and on-premises infrastructure, and the new landscape rooted in the cloud. Since at least this year, rumors have periodically claimed Windows could soon follow a similar course, perhaps in a product like Office 365. Those rumors gained a modicum of credibility thanks to last week's discovery of a Microsoft job post that referred to "Windows as a service."
The phrase "Windows as a service" has popped up before in several contexts. Before Azure RemoteApp, which allows Windows Server apps to run on a range of devices, was officially announced as a preview in May, it was described as "Windows as a service" in several pre-release rumors, for instance. But in addition to the recent job posting -- which was first reported by the website Neowin and has since been amended to remove the "Windows as a service" reference -- Microsoft has advertised at least once before for a role related to "Windows as a service." In that case, the job posting described building "the software platform that will allow first- and third-party service providers to onboard their services" to "Microsoft's new consumer membership program." That is, it described responsibilities that don't sound like part of RemoteApp.
When asked if the newest job posting referred to an Azure RemoteApp role, a Microsoft rep said the company has nothing to share.
If Microsoft is preparing something akin to "Windows 365," it could be a welcome move, according to Forrester analyst David Johnson. He told InformationWeek that Forrester analysts expect Microsoft to offer a cloud-based version of Windows eventually.
What would be in it for Microsoft and customers? "When Microsoft has the ability to co-locate virtual desktop infrastructure in the same datacenters or close proximity to the applications they'll be hosting, all kinds of things become interesting," Johnson said, illustrating one potential desktop-as-a-service scenario. With such a service, he pointed out, mobile and remote users could gain much more efficient access to powerful tools and vast amounts of data without today's latency and bandwidth hurdles.
Microsoft might also be exploring new licensing models, he said. Enterprises might find a subscription-based version of Windows convenient when scaling up and down around short-term workers.
Whether Microsoft will pursue these angles is unclear, but the company is undeniably shaking up its Windows delivery system. Traditionally, Microsoft has added major features to Windows in big chunks every three years or so. But since releasing Windows 8 in the late fall of 2012, the company has been pushing its OS development toward the sort of rapid-release update model used by its web and cloud teams. Microsoft released Windows 8.1 in October and Windows 8.1 Update in April. The company has also begun to demand
Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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