With desktop-as-a-service Windows coming, say goodbye to your PC as you know it

With desktop-as-a-service Windows coming, say goodbye to your PC as you know it

How much are you going to like having Microsoft in charge of your desktop?

For over 30 years, we’ve thought of PCs primarily as Windows machines, which we owned and controlled. That’s about to change forever.

This isn’t about Microsoft forcing us off Windows 7 to Windows 10 as fast as it can (though it has found many ways to push that agenda). This is about Microsoft abandoning the Windows platform as a conventional desktop.

Microsoft is getting ready to replace Windows 10 with the Microsoft Managed Desktop. This will be a “desktop-as-a-service” (DaaS) offering. Instead of owning Windows, you’ll “rent” it by the month.

DaaS for Windows isn’t new. Citrix and VMware have made a living from it for years. Microsoft has offered Remote Desktop Services, formerly Terminal Services, for ages.

Microsoft Managed Desktop is a new take. It avoids the latency problem of the older Windows DaaS offerings by keeping the bulk of the operating system on your PC.

But you’ll no longer be in charge of your Windows PC. Instead, it will be automatically provisioned and patched for you by Microsoft. Maybe you’ll be OK with that.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know IT departments have not been happy with Microsoft’s twice yearly major “upgrades” to Windows 10. Let’s call it what it is. These aren’t upgrades or updates; they’re service patches (SP).

Take the Windows 10 April 2018 Update — please! It came with more than its fair share of bugs. What was especially annoying was that “Update” fouled up so many of Microsoft’s own programs. When even Word, Outlook and File Explorer lock up, you know you’ve got a mess on your hands.

Computerworld’s Woody Leonhard even recommended that, unless you were stuck with the April Update, you turn off automatic updating. He’s right to do so.

Windows patching was always chancy, but with Windows 10 you’re more likely to have trouble when you patch than you are to avoid problems. And isn’t that a heck of a note?

So, with this track record, do you want to pay good money to let Microsoft maintain your desktops for you? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Nonetheless, DaaS Windows is coming. Microsoft has been getting away from the old-style desktop model for years now. Just look at Office. Microsoft would much rather have you rent Office via Office 365 than buy Microsoft Office and use it for years.

Microsoft Managed Desktop is the first move to replacing “your” desktop with a rented desktop. By 2021, I expect the Managed Desktop to be to traditional Windows what Office 365 is to Office today: the wave of the future. Or maybe tsunami, depending on your perspective.

I’m not happy with this development. I’m old enough to remember the PC revolution. We went from depending on mainframes and Unix boxes for computing power to having the real power on our desktops. It was liberating.

Now Microsoft, which helped lead that revolution, is trying to return us to that old, centralized control model.

Forget that noise. If Microsoft continues on this course, soon your only real choices if you really want a “desktop” operating system will be Linux and macOS. Oh, you’ll still have “Windows.” But Windows as your “personal” desktop? It will be history.

(Reporting by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Computerworld)

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