There was a time when the release of a new version of Windows resulted in a huge surge in PC sales. Now, ahead of the Windows 11 release, Microsoft could poke a dagger through the heart of the PC industry.
This week Microsoft announced Windows 365, a new service that enables businesses to access Windows 10 or 11 virtual PCs from any web browser. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a desperately old ten year old laptop, iPad, or even an Android smartphone, you’ll still get the same performance from your Windows PC as it’s streamed from Microsoft’s servers. As long as you have a device that can run a web browser, your PC will have the power it needs (at least in theory).
Indeed, if you own an interest in Dell, HP, or any other PC manufacturer, you should be very concerned.
The Windows magic
All of this is still a long way from the PC boom of Windows 95. The successor to Windows 3.1 really heralded the beginning of the home PC era.
Microsoft released Windows 95 with a massive marketing campaign that boosted sales of new PCs. When Microsoft increased the system requirements for Windows 95, even those who already had a PC in the house were practically forced to buy a new PC to run Microsoft’s groundbreaking new operating system.
It was a gold rush for PC makers that was further boosted in the second half of the decade as the mainstream spread of the Internet. Suddenly everyone didn’t just want a PC, they needed a PC.
Windows’ ability to relocate new PCs was so great that by the end of the decade and into the new millennium, Microsoft was suspected of pushing out new versions of the operating system – like the somber Windows Me – just to hit the company’s sales charts. PC makers weren’t bothered a bit.
When Windows XP was launched in 2001, 17 million licenses (mostly on new PCs) were sold in the first two months, more than four times the sales of Windows 98. “Enjoy today, just two and a half months after Windows XP was launched More than 17 million people enjoy the new experiences, stability and security that Windows XP brings, “said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft at CES in January 2002 Opportunities for PC Manufacturers and our other partners in the industry.”
It was a scratch on the back of epic proportions.
Windows in the cloud
Instead of scratching the back, Microsoft could now stab PC manufacturers in the back with a knife.
Windows 365 eliminates the need to buy a new PC. For a low monthly fee, you get the power of Windows 11 and new PCs with your existing hardware. Microsoft hasn’t released full pricing yet, but a pricing plan leaked earlier this week is around $ 30 per month, although cheaper plans will be available. This could be very tempting for a company looking to avoid the upfront cost of new hardware.
Instead of buying a new PC, the company just has to provide employees with a screen and lightweight computer hardware to run the browser. It could be something as rudimentary as the USB compute sticks or even a Raspberry Pi that costs a lot less than $ 100. When employees work from home, they can log into the “work PC” with their own laptop or tablet and the company doesn’t have to worry about employees using their own devices for work and all of the security risks that come with it are . Everything is sealed in the cloud.
At the moment, Windows 365 is just a business offering, but it seems like only a matter of time before Microsoft brings this to consumers as well. Perhaps it will give its PC partners one final Windows release before it announces Windows 365 for consumers next year, even though the release of a new version of Windows is no longer the massive PC sales driver it once was.
Microsoft has already put everything in place to make Windows 365 a hit with consumers, not least on the gaming side. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours playing Xbox games on my Mac with the beta of Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service. That way, you can play the latest console titles on virtually any screen hardware without having to splash onto a console or an even more expensive gaming PC.
Imagine all of this bundled into one package, with the Microsoft Office apps and a few terabytes of OneDrive storage for all of your files for a modest monthly fee. You don’t have to check your PC specs every time you buy a new game or software. You don’t have to worry about backing up your data as everything is backed up multiple times in the Microsoft cloud. You don’t have to worry about Windows Update or antivirus software as it will take care of everything for you.
This shift won’t happen overnight. There will continue to be a large group of people who also want and need local computing power, who don’t want to rely on the cloud and a stable broadband connection for their computing power.
But Windows 365 is the greatest threat the PC market has ever faced, and it comes from the company that started it in the first place.