Now that Microsoft has said how much its desktop-as-a-service will cost, businesses can figure out if it’s better to switch to virtual PCs or keep using regular PCs.
This week, Microsoft released its Windows 365 service and showed that the prices for virtual desktops range from $20 to $162 per user per month.
Microsoft announced desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) in July and pitched it as an alternative to traditional local hardware-based computing. On August 2, companies of all sizes would be able to use “cloud PCs” through DaaS. With Windows 365, the operations of a virtual machine would be streamed to any device that can run a web browser. The operating system and applications, like the Office suite and the ones chosen by corporate customers, would be stored and run on demand from Microsoft’s Azure network of server farms.
Not “holy cow, what is this?” new. Instead, Windows 365 is a simplified and more easily scalable version of what used to be called Windows Virtual Desktop but is now called Azure Virtual Desktop. This service, on the other hand, needs a lot of experience to set up and is priced, like most cloud computing, based on the resources used, such as the amount of data sent back and forth, the amount of storage space given, and the number of processors assigned.
On the other hand, Windows 365 is a flat-rate service. Once the user has chosen the virtual PC they want, the cost is set per month.
This is how Microsoft explained it in July and how it posted the prices on Monday.
Microsoft took ideas from its other 365 products and put Windows 365 plans into two main groups: Business and Enterprise. (There aren’t any plans for education or consumers yet; it’s possible that such plans would be too expensive.)
Customers who want to set up 300 or fewer cloud PCs for their business can use Windows 365 Business. Those whose employees have devices running Windows 10 (or 11) Pro, the most comprehensive licence that manufacturers pre-install on their commercial devices, will pay less for Windows 365 Business.
Users who use their Windows 10 Pro system to access the Windows 365 cloud PC get a discount of up to 16% on their Windows 365 subscriptions. For example, Pro users pay $31 per month for a virtual PC that normally costs $35 per month. Getting to the virtual machine from a different platform, like macOS, costs more.
Windows 365 Enterprise, like the same-named line of other 365 services, is Microsoft’s top-tier service for large organisations with a lot of IT resources. There are no discounts here because the prices for each configuration of a virtual PC are the same as the prices that were reduced on Business. That is, the discounts are already built in.
Users of Enterprise must also have a Microsoft 365 licence, such as E3, E5, F3, or Business Premium. Prices for virtual PCs are based on how they are set up in terms of three parts: processor cores, RAM, and storage space. The one that costs the least is a single-core device with 2GB RAM and a 64GB drive, which costs $20 per month. There are 12 different configurations, and each one is a little bit more expensive than the one before it. The most expensive one, with eight cores, 32GB RAM, and a 512GB drive, costs $158 a month. (Without the discount for Pro, the same configuration in Windows 365 Business costs $162 per month.)
It’s easy to look at the prices of Windows 365 and think that they don’t make sense when compared to, say, the price of a physical PC with the same specs.
Michael Niehaus wrote on his personal blog, “But there’s more to the total cost of owning a PC than just the hardware.” Niehaus worked at Microsoft until October, where he did things like set up and manage Windows. He is now a global technology specialist at Tanium, a company that does security and management.
Niehaus pointed out savings that could be attributed to Windows 365’s virtual PCs in that post, which was written soon after Microsoft’s July announcement, as well as in other posts after that. These savings included deployment and physical hardware repair or warranty. Still, when he thought about the service as a whole, he came to the conclusion that the most likely customers would be those who had already put a lot of money into virtualizing desktops, like banks and financial companies looking to cut costs.
Niehaus said, “As a result, the first people to use Windows 365 are likely to be those who already have a 1:1 persistent VDI farm that they manage internally. This requires a huge investment in hardware, software, and people to keep running,” In a later post, he said that the case for Windows 365 probably won’t speed up the use of DaaS right away.
“VDI solutions are expensive whether they are set up in the cloud or on-site.”