4th March 2024

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Technology and Computer

Microsoft unveils app to stream Windows, even on Chromebooks

Microsoft has announced the launch of what they are calling “Windows app,” a new service designed to stream the full Windows desktop operating system from the cloud to various devices, including Chromebooks. This new offering from Microsoft signifies a major shift in how the company thinks users will be using Windows in the future and is clearly a response to the “Chromebook threat.”

Let’s first dive into what this new service entails exactly. The Windows App is essentially a new remote desktop hub that enables users to stream Windows Cloud PC and remote desktop services on a range of devices. This includes not only other Windows machines but also iPhones, iPads, Macs, and any device equipped with a desktop browser, i.e. Chromebooks. Android devices are currently not supported. You can view a preview version of the app here.

Microsoft describes the Windows App as a “gateway” to several key services: Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365, Microsoft Dev Box, and Remote Desktop Services.

You can use Windows App on many different types of devices on different platforms and form factors, such as desktops and laptops, tablets, smartphones, and through a web browser. When using a web browser on a desktop or laptop, you can connect without having to download and install any software.


Interestingly, the service officially supports ChromeOS, allowing Chromebook users to stream Windows 11. The technical requirements for this are minimal, needing only ChromeOS version 57 or newer. But before you try to use the Windows App on your Chromebook, it’s important to know that Microsoft is currently only allowing business and school accounts to use the app.

As reported by The Verge, this initiative is part of a broader strategy by Microsoft to move Windows to the cloud, as revealed in an internal “state of the business” presentation from June 2022. Discussed during the ongoing FTC v. Microsoft hearing, this strategy includes a focus on building upon “Windows 365 to enable a full Windows operating system streamed from the cloud to any device.” Microsoft states things a little more clearly in another part of the presentation saying that they need to “shore up Windows commercial value and respond to Chromebook threat.”

I think Microsoft is clearly trying to figure out what Windows will look like in the new cloud-computing era and this new app is part of that. But here’s the difference: ChromeOS was built for the web, Windows was not. I am all for Microsoft improving their products and allowing users who depend on their services to access them through the web but throwing an old-school OS in the cloud isn’t the same as an OS that was built for the cloud. ChromeOS is a threat and for good reason – it is a modern OS built for what Microsoft calls “modern work.”

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