Microsoft's Swiss army knife app hopes to cut through cloud clutter

A 'win' for Windows or just another pane in the glass?

Ignite Microsoft is teasing a Windows App that provides a home screen for users of its cloud and remote PC services.

The Windows App – intended for web browsers, macOS, and iOS devices – is Microsoft's latest effort to tie up its disparate services into a unified home screen. In this case, a single pane where a user can access Windows 365, Microsoft Dev Box, and Azure Virtual Desktop, as well as good old Remote Desktop Services and remote PC services.

If you've bought into the Microsoft way of doing things, the app will be useful to have rather than a collection of clients. However, Microsoft is hardly the first to create a unified portal. Alternatives include Citrix.

Microsoft showed off the functionality on offer at its Ignite gathering in the US, including multiple monitor support, custom and dynamic display resolutions and scaling, device redirection, and Teams optimizations.

Functions such as device redirection are not new, but we can see the benefit of it all being in one place.

Intriguingly, Android is absent from the support list. Microsoft still sells an Android device, the Surface Duo 2, but clearly feels the web browser is enough for the phone's users.

Also, while the browser version can connect to Microsoft's cloud PC services – Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365, and Dev Box – you'll need the macOS or iOS version if you want to go near Remote Desktop Services or connect to a remote PC. Microsoft doesn't currently support that scenario either, but it's important to remember that this is a preview, and much could change between now and the general release.

The Windows App has come as Microsoft showcased a Windows 365 GPU-enabled Cloud PC preview, adding to the choices faced by customers who can already access GPU-optimized Virtual Machines in Azure Virtual Desktop.

Three configurations are available, covering scenarios comparable to laptops with integrated graphics up to workstation-class systems. You can't, however, do nested virtualization, and pricing will only be revealed upon acceptance into the preview program. ®

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