It's been two years since Chromebooks running Google's Chrome OS appeared on store shelves. So far, Google's plan--to turn your Web browser into an operating system and websites into desktop-app replacements--does not appear to be catching on
But what if instead of accessing just websites, Chromebooks connected to a Windows desktop that lived in the cloud? Instead of having the Windows OS and all your apps stored locally, what if Microsoft hosted your Windows desktop on its servers, allowing you to access your personal "PC" from any device?
The idea is not so far-fetched.
Enterprises can already offer virtualized Windows desktop access to their employees. There are also a few third-party services like OnLive Desktop and CloudOn that can deliver the Windows desktop and/or Office apps to your tablets and other devices. You can even create some home-brew situations to access your Windows desktop remotely.
Check out this demo showing an HP remote server using Microsoft's RemoteFX technology to render the PC game Crysis to a low-powered client machine with an ARM processor.
Microsoft may reportedly roll out another virtualization solution that is essentially a "Windows desktop as a service." The service, aimed at enterprises and codenamed Mohoro, would offer virtualized Windows desktops and apps running on Microsoft's Azure cloud infrastructure, according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley who has numerous sources inside Microsoft.
The new project is still in early development, Foley says, and may not roll out for some time.
If Mohoro does become a real service for enterprises, would it eventually roll out to consumers in some form? "Ultimately, Microsoft will provide Windows as SaaS, or software as a service," says Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. "It's just the next, natural step in the evolution of software distribution. (Microsoft's) latest Office 365 is a real good indicator of where Windows is going."
The perks of such a system are pretty tempting. For one thing, it would remove pain of transferring your files and settings whenever you buy a new computer. You could just purchase a new laptop, sign in with your Microsoft account, and all your files, settings, and apps would be there waiting for you.
It would also be a boon for Windows RT users who are stuck with an essentially useless desktop incapable of running most traditional Windows desktop programs. A cloud-based Windows would allow RT users to run anything they wanted on their device.
Microsoft, as Moorhead points out, is already moving in this direction with Office 365 Home Premium, not to mention Windows 8.
With Office 365 you can download Office on up to 5 PCs you own, as well as temporarily stream a version of Office 365 called Office on Demand to other PCs. Office 365's SkyDrive integration also encourages you to save all your documents to the cloud so you can access them from anywhere and collaborate with others.
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