Microsoft launches cloud version of Windows for remote workers

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Microsoft Corp. unveiled a new way to purchase its flagship Windows operating system, delivering the software via the cloud from the company’s data centers to users’ personal computers or tablets.

The cloud-based product, called Windows 365, frees companies and users from having to install Windows and their various apps, data and settings on every computer.

It will be a good choice for employees working from home, as well as interns or contractors who need a fast and temporary setup that can easily be wiped when they leave, Jared Spataro, a Microsoft vice president, said in an interview.

The software will work on machines running Google’s Android or Apple Inc.’s iOS and Mac operating systems. Windows 365 is intended for users who just want to point and click to set up their cloud-based service, Spataro said.

Microsoft will charge a monthly per user fee and there will be three preset tiers depending on computing power and storage, although that can be customized more specifically for different prices.

Users can size up and down without having to buy a new PC, and can also choose between Windows 10 and the next version, Windows 11, when it’s available later this year.

“What if I’m a software dev-and-test professional and I have a pretty nice setup here in the office but I want flexible work and to work from home, too?” Spataro said, explaining one of the uses for the product. “Does that mean my company has to pay for the same type of setup at home?” A Microsoft survey earlier this year found 73% of workers want flexible work options to remain after the pandemic.

Windows 365, not to be confused with Microsoft 365, or Office 365, goes on sale Aug. 2. Microsoft announced the product Wednesday at its Inspire conference for partners.

The company also reduced fees for its commercial software marketplaces AppSource and Azure Marketplace— where partners sell their products to Microsoft customers. Partners will now have to pay 3% of their take to Microsoft rather than 20%.

The company is also unveiling a new collection of cloud software — Microsoft cloud for sustainability — that will help customers meet carbon reduction goals. It will be previewed later this year and let users track and reduce emissions.

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