Back to the future: Microsoft moves to push Windows 10 users to the cloud

Like the idea of Desktop-as-a-Service rather than trying to manage thousands of users desktops at home? Microsoft has some advice for you.

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Kaz (CC0)

As the months and years go by, Microsoft keeps steadily moving away from its old model of PC operating systems, which started with buying Seattle Computing Products' 86-DOS, aka Quick and Dirty DOS in July 1981 and renaming it MS-DOS 1.10, toward  Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).

If your home office doesn't have a fast Internet connection yet, get one. You're going to need it. 

Even after writing about the PC-to-DaaS transition for what seems like ages now, I'm still not sure how much people really get what a fundamental change this represents. Back in the ‘80s, compute power lay on mainframes and Unix-powered mini-computers. PCs were a revolution. But in the 2020s, we're going back to a model where all the real computing happens on the cloud, and your device — even if it’s a $1,399 top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro Max — is just a glorified VT-102 dumb terminal.

The Microsoft DaaS programs, along with their Citrix Systems cousins, have been here for decades. But the new Azure-based model,  Microsoft Cloud PC, is a strategic, new offering built on top of Windows Virtual Desktop to deliver Windows 10 DaaS for everyone.

Of course, it's easy to declare, "We're all going to move to a desktop paradigm this summer." It's a heck of a lot harder, as anyone who's ever done a desktop migration knows, to actually do it.

That's why Microsoft just launched Windows 10 "in cloud" configuration. This isn't a new product or service. It's guidance on how to use Microsoft Endpoint Manager and some Windows apps with your existing Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, or Windows 10 Education PCs to set them up so they'll be "cloud-optimized for users with specific workflow needs."

Such as?  Microsoft spells it out this way:

“It provides a uniform, simplified configuration optimized for the cloud that can be applied to any Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education device. Users enroll with their Azure Active Directory (AD)accounts--note this, not your local AD, Azure--and devices are kept protected and compliant with Microsoft-recommended security settings. User data is redirected to compliant storage in OneDrive.

  • Cloud config is ready to go today and can be deployed using Microsoft Endpoint Manager. It is NOT a new edition or mode of Windows so there is no dependency on new hardware, and there are no operating system restrictions to consider. Much like how IT manages Windows 10 devices today, the cloud configuration can be applied, removed, and changed anytime using Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
  • Devices are configured with Windows 10 endpoint security settings and automatically updated through Windows Update for Business.
  • Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Edge, and additional Microsoft 365 apps can be installed on the device and come securely configured, automatically updated, and ready to go.
  • Essential line-of-business and productivity apps can be layered on top of the cloud configuration to provide each user with the apps they need to be successful.
  • Every PC gets a standard configuration, simplifying troubleshooting and device replacements.”

Put it all together and what do you get? You get a bridge between your existing Windows 10 PCs and the new DaaS Windows 10 model.

With "in cloud," you'll be able to get your feet wet with a cloud-centric Windows 10. Friends at Microsoft tell me they have great hopes for this in our new working-from-home, business world. Since nearly everyone in business I've talked to expects most of us to keep working from home forever onward, this may work well.

It's rather ironic. Not only are we going back to a centralized computing model, we're doing it even as personally we move from a central office building to our homes. And, if you're old enough, you'll recall that’s just where the "home PC" revolution started.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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