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Would you use a cloud-based version of Windows?

Ian Paul | May 3, 2013
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

On Windows 8, your Microsoft account allows you to sync your personal settings across multiple devices including the lock screen, desktop theme, and some modern UI app settings.

A consumer-grade version of Windows in the cloud might also remove the hassles of upgrading your machine. When you subscribe to Office 365 Home Premium, for example, you are automatically guaranteed to have the latest versions of Microsoft's Office suite--from feature additions to complete app overhauls.

Presumably, a cloud-based version of Windows would be offered as an annual subscription with similar upgrade benefits to Office 365. Windows 365 Home Premium, anyone?

Pouring cold water on the virtual PC

But not everyone is convinced such a scheme would work.

"I am very skeptical that such an initiative would gather momentum outside of the commercial market," says David Daoud, IDC's research director for PCs and Green IT. "Consumers (individuals and households) are not so open to the complexity and steep learning curve of such "virtualized" platforms."

Daoud argues that for consumers "the cloud [is] often understood as storage and a place where pre-built applications are run, from accessing social media sites and streaming services." (IDC and PCWorld are both owned by International Data Group.)

Brett Waldman, IDC's research manager for client virtualization software, agrees with Daoud. Waldman also doubts Microsoft would provide "virtual instances of Windows client operating systems." More likely, says Waldman, is an extension of Microsoft's RemoteApp technology that allows enterprises to publish specific applications to corporate devices. Foley's report does quote one Microsoft source as saying Mohoro would be a like hosted version of RemoteApp.

Not even in the ballpark, yet

Even if Microsoft did give remote access for consumers a shot, it may be a while before a virtualized version of Windows would be viable, especially for users in the United States. The problem, says Moorhead, is a remote version of Windows would require "a very fast and reliable Internet connection." This is something that many Americans don't have at home.

But a remote Windows desktop could start as an add-on service, Moorhead argues. Under this scheme, you could access your Windows desktop from anywhere for those times when you're not at home or only have an iPad nearby.

If Microsoft could get it to work properly, a subscription-based remote Windows desktop offers an enticing scenario. Well, at least for technology buffs.

As Daoud and Waldman point out, the idea of a cloud-based version of Windows that relies on a fast Internet connection may not appeal to most home users. You got to admit, however, that a Windows Cloud OS sounds a lot more interesting than Chrome OS.


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