Business and Enterprise customers can now sign up for Windows 365, a Cloud PC service that lets you stream a Windows desktop to any device through a web browser. Windows 365 could help businesses save money and secure their internal networks, but with the current pricing tiers, it may be difficult for some companies to justify.
Update, 8/4/21 10:58 am Eastern: Microsoft has paused its 60-day trial program for Windows 365 due to unexpectedly high demand. Business and Enterprise customers can still buy Cloud PC licenses, but you can’t try the service for free.
Microsoft divides its Windows 365 plans into five tiers based on vCPUs and RAM. The cheapest plans start at $24 per month per user and come with a single virtual core and 2GB of RAM. Other plans increase the vCPU and RAM count incrementally, so there’s a $32 plan with 2 vCPUs and 4 GB RAM, a $70 plan with 4 vCPUs and 16 GB RAM, and so on.
The two lowest Windows 365 tiers come with 64GB storage, while the three top tiers include 128GB of storage. You can pay extra to increase the storage, though. So if you decided to max everything out during the Microsoft 365 licensing process, you would pay $162 a month for a virtual PC with 8 vCPUs, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.
Don’t worry; Microsoft will give you a $4 discount per user if you have a Windows 10 Professional license! Even then, these plans are extremely expensive, and a year of subscription fees to any of Windows 365’s tiers could easily pay for an equally powerful PC. So, what’s the big idea here?
Even at these high prices, Windows 365 could dramatically cut business costs. Companies can pre-install software on their Windows 365 Cloud PCs, saving the IT department any time it might usually spend configuring new computers. Plus, because PC hardware gets outsourced to Microsoft, businesses can spend less money maintaining and repairing computers. Temporary employees can use a cheap Cloud PC instead of a new laptop, and of course, increased network security can pay for itself.
I should also point out that Microsoft 365 licenses cost a few dollars less than similar plans from Azure and Amazon WorkSpaces. When you scale these services to cover hundreds of employees, that $5 or $6 in savings translates to a lot of money. Microsoft also offers free 60 day trials for the service, allowing you to test a Cloud PC with up to 4 vCPUs and 16 GB RAM (so long as you’re a business, of course).
So while Microsoft 365 clearly has its uses, it may be too expensive for some small businesses and schools. It’s also way too expensive for regular people, but to be fair, it could take a long time for the average person to understand the benefits of Cloud PCs.