OPINION: This week, Microsoft revealed a new app for both PCs and Apple devices. This app is… Windows. That’s right, Microsoft has turned its operating system into an app you can access from anywhere, and it’s only the beginning.
Imagine this, a vision where you can give users access to powerful experiences as long as they have a device capable of connecting to the internet and a solid connection. Well, you don’t have to imagine it, and Microsoft is already doing it.
Microsoft’s Xbox division has touted for several years now that its goal is to make gaming accessible to lots of players via Game Pass – a quantity approach versus PlayStation’s quality. So, it’s easy to see how this exact vision can translate to Windows and PC for more office-centric workloads.
That vision has started its journey towards taking shape with the new Windows app. The new app isn’t yet widely available, limited to business customers initially, but it offers access to a fully-fledged remote PC, Windows 365 and more. You can even use the app across multiple monitors, at various resolutions and take advantage of most typical peripherals too – it’s a PC in the cloud.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a new concept, with companies like Shadow offering PC streaming for some time now and even Microsoft itself offering something similar for a long while. But, the Windows app is a step towards something with broader and more accessible appeal. It’s an idea Microsoft appears to be all in on, from its ongoing Xbox Cloud Gaming vision to the hiring of a new “Windows and Web Experiences” team earlier this year (via The Verge).
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Along with Cloud Gaming, Xbox’s rumoured plans point even further to the streaming future we’re entering too. In September, we saw plans leak relating to a new Xbox. These may have changed now, but they set a plan for a hybrid future, combining hardware and cloud seamlessly.
It isn’t just Microsoft either, as Qualcomm has regularly touted the cloud as the future of computing, with it keen to offer up 5G as the forefront of our accessible computing future (via Forbes). And, it could be a partnership made in heaven, with Qualcomm’s connectivity combined with Microsoft’s streaming platform to give you Windows almost anywhere you go.
So, if using Windows in the cloud does take off, what could that mean? If Windows does become an app that you can “play anywhere” – taking from a famous Xbox mantra – then you’ll have access to tons of computing power on almost any device with a solid internet connection.
This notion is admittedly some way off, but that’s already the play of gaming platforms like Nvidia GeForce Now, offering tons of gaming performance in the cloud. It’d be a coup for thin and light laptops, without the need to power battery-sapping components and giving you access to demanding workloads anywhere over the internet.
That’s the pie in the sky but what’s the reality? A fully cloud-based Windows seems some way off, with a transition to a more hybrid platform seeming the likely first step, with the likes of its AI assistant Microsoft Copilot already being a big new feature that runs over the internet.
Then, there’s the cost. We live in a subscription-laden world and this seems like it would be another one, and we’ve seen how a cost-effective and appealing platform can quickly see price rises – but, if it offers immense PC power across all of your devices wherever you have a connection, then charging a pretty penny could be justified.
A shift from consumer-owned hardware doing all the performance legwork began a long time ago, and Microsoft looks set to be at the forefront of it taking off across gaming and PCs the world over.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.