Windows 365: Five key differences from Windows Home and Pro

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Microsoft released Windows 365 business pricing this week, telling us a little more about what Microsoft’s “PC in the cloud” will cost. Right now, this cloud-based version of Windows is an enterprise product, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a version of Windows 365 will eventually land in consumer PCs. But what then? Windows 365’s business plans give us some hints.

If nothing else, any curious Windows user should be looking at Windows 365 for glimpses of where Microsoft is taking the broad Windows platform and Cloud PCs.

Microsoft isn’t afraid to migrate its products to and from the cloud, both for enterprise and consumer users. Exhibit A: Microsoft 365 (once called Microsoft Office) runs on your PC, the Web, and mobile apps. Exhibit B: Microsoft has already made a “Cloud Xbox” accessible to consumers, as part of Xbox cloud gaming.

And now we have Windows 365, which simply puts a virtual PC in the cloud. This could also be a natural fit for consumers, especially considering the broader trend in computing to put software and services in the cloud.

Microsoft’s Windows 365 pricing should evoke some sticker shock. Microsoft said it would charge businesses at least $24 per user per month for Windows 365, all the way up to $162 per user per month for a powerful “Cloud PC.” Obviously, businesses will be footing this bill, as part of either Windows 365 Business or Enterprise plans. But let’s look past the pricing and parse Microsoft’s fine print. It includes some interesting details on how Windows 365 differs from the Windows on your desk.

’Hybrid benefit’ entails discounts for Windows 10 users

Microsoft published a long list of Windows 365 pricing and configurations on its website Monday afternoon. While the prices are far above what consumers would ever tolerate the pricing tells us Microsoft will offer a discount to those that already own a Windows 10 PC or license.

microsoft windows 365 pricing Microsoft

Microsoft’s Windows 365 pricing.

Microsoft calls this a “Windows Hybrid Benefit,” and it knocks off up to 16 percent of the monthly fee if you already own Windows 10 Pro on a PC (the Home version isn’t included). There are two kickers: First, your PC must be your primary work device, according to a Windows 365 FAQ. Second, you must access the Cloud PC from the Windows 10 PC at least once per “term,” or month. (There’s really no secret to what a Cloud PC is—imagine opening up an app on your phone and seeing a Windows desktop. It’s that simple.)

There is some precedent for Microsoft offering discounts to loyal customers: Microsoft Rewards and Microsoft’s Bing Rebates shopping programs already offer you real cash back for using Microsoft’s services. So, a flat discount for Windows 10 owners doesn’t seem unusual.

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