Microsoft is making its Cloud PCs more flexible thanks to a new Windows 365 Frontline option, integration into LG’s 2023 TVs, and even a new Windows 365 experience for Android devices. Windows 365 Frontline is a new offering designed for frontline, shift, and part-time workers in a bid to offer businesses more flexibility over how they purchase Cloud PC licenses.
Microsoft originally put PCs in the cloud with Windows 365 nearly two years ago, allowing businesses to access Windows in a web browser. Windows 365 Frontline enters public preview today and features similar virtualized Windows 10 or Windows 11 PCs, but the crucial difference is now up to three people are able to access a machine based on a single license. That’s ideal for businesses that have frontline staff that work in shift patterns like call centers, medical care, and support workers.
“Shift workers can share licenses vs. paying for individual licenses that are only partially used,” explains Wangui McKelvey, a general manager for modern work apps at Microsoft, in an interview with The Verge. Windows 365 Frontline licenses can be shared across countries, making them useful for businesses where not all employees are working at the same time.
IT admins will have the ability to control who is able to access these Cloud PCs and prioritize when sessions are logged out. “With Frontline we’re providing some very powerful tools for admins to be able to see the history of usage and for admins to be able to manage usage,” says Scott Manchester, designer and director of Windows 365, in an interview with The Verge.
If a worker forgets to log out of a session at the end of a shift, admins can boot them out or set policies so that machines are automatically logged off. Likewise, employees will see a queue if they’re waiting for a Cloud PC to become available. “They can see they’re in a queue and then once the queue is open they can get connectivity back,” explains Manchester. Admins will also be able to set an automatic lock screen and auto reset and wipe Cloud PCs at the end of a shift. These Cloud PCs can even be configured to install Windows updates outside of shifts to ensure nobody is getting rebooted while they’re working.
Microsoft is also still working on integrating these Cloud PCs into Windows 11 in a future update. The integration includes Windows 365 Boot, which will enable Windows 11 devices to log directly in to a Cloud PC instance at boot instead of the local Windows install. The second feature is Windows 365 Switch, which integrates Cloud PCs into the Task View (virtual desktops) feature of Windows 11.
These features are now being tested in the private Windows 11 builds and will hit “general availability later this year,” according to Manchester. Microsoft is also working on a Windows 365 offline feature that lets you work locally when there are connectivity issues to a Cloud PC. “No new updates on that quite yet, but we’re continuing to make progress,” says Manchester.
Microsoft is also expanding the number of devices that can access Windows 365 Cloud PCs. While anyone can access them through a web browser, LG’s new 2023 smart TVs now have access to these Cloud PC workstations. All you need to do is pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to your TV to turn it into a cloud-powered PC. “It’s only available on 2023 LG models right now, but there are plans for some older LG models to “use the Windows 365 web client experience,” according to Manchester.”
So when will you be able to transform other TVs from the likes of Samsung and others into Windows 365 clients? “You’re going to see a lot of partners that are interested in this... you can imagine there’s probably a long line of partners that are interested in a very similar experience,” says Manchester.
Microsoft is also bringing what it calls an “enhanced Windows 365 experience” to Android devices like the Lenovo ThinkPhone by Motorola. “This new built-in experience will allow people to use the ThinkPhone to plug-and-play Windows 365 connectivity that finds and automatically configures their Cloud PC for use on an external screen,” says McKelvey.
It sounds similar to Microsoft’s Windows Phone Continuum feature that turned a phone into a PC but this time connecting to a Cloud PC on the external monitor. Given how many businesses now offer hot desks with just monitors and a keyboard and mouse, this type of integration would let you use your phone instead of lugging a laptop to work.
Finally, the Windows 365 app is now available in the Microsoft Store. The app offers direct connectivity to Cloud PCs and the ability to reboot them and perform troubleshooting.
Correction, April 19th 6:15AM ET: Microsoft originally stated there would be an app for older LG TVs, but it’s actually a web client experience. Article has been updated to correct Microsoft’s language.