Windows 365 Boot – What is the fuzz about?

If you are, just like me, a BIG Windows 365 fan you probably haven’t missed the news around Windows 365 Boot. There was an update released in the end of January which enabled what is called Windows 365 Boot Dedicated mode and Windows 365 Boot Shared mode.

There are a lot of awesome posts out there how to configure these, like these to from my fellow Windows 365 MVP Dominiek Verham, which I really recommend you to check out!

Two really awesome posts about how to get started.

But why should you use it and why should we pay attention to this?

In this post, I’ll discuss a little around my view on why these to features will play a crutial part in the Windows 365 journey and the future of Windows. These

And also let’s adress the elephant in the room. Windows 365 Boot is basically Microsofts take on thing clients on Windows. This has been done before by others, but never using the standard management tools. I think that is one of the key things with Windows 365 Boot, we manage a regular Windows installation with Microsoft Intune.

Windows 365 Boot Dedicated mode

Lets start of with what it is.

Windows 365 Boot Dedicated mode is a new Windows 365 feature which enables you to have a PC which is using Windows 365 Boot that is, just like the name says, is dedicated to one user. Right now, this feature is in public preview.

Previosuly when we have looked at Windows 365 Boot, you have not had a user assigned to the machine which meant that using passwordless solutions like e.g. Windows Hello for Business was not possible.

Now with Windows 365 Dedicated mode, I can have my PC setup as a Windows 365 machine and each time I sign in to my computer I will end up in my Cloud PC session using Windows Hello for Business.

This opens for a lot of new cool scenarios which we could do and I think this might be the bigger and maybe a scenario which is harder for many to related to. We are so used to having our “own” computer locally, and maybe connect out to a virtual session when ever we need to switch context to a different environment or such. This would make your primary device a cloud based computer, which in my world is kind of awesome.

Some scenarios I can think of top of mind where this could be usefull are:

  • Extend life of older hardware
  • Upgrade a PC to a higher spec without needing to have physcal access to the device
  • Provide cheaper hardware for certain scenarios
  • Ensure data is not lost when using devices in more extreme environments (hardware failure)

One kind of weird scenario that came to mind was also that you could by your self also switch between computers, by selecting in the Windows 365 web portal which device to connect to. This means that you could for extended times work from one typ och device, and then easliy change this through the webportal.

Why should we care?

To be honest, I think this scenario could potenitally be a hard sell to IT people, since we are very used to working with out operating system locally. The host machine would still require to run Windows 11, but you would never really see it and you would still need to patch the OS on a regular basis.

I think the biggest selling point here is that if you go with a Cloud PC in this way, you will always run on “hardware” which is preforming. No need to wory about disk crashes, slowness or anything like that. You will also gain insane traffic thorugh put, since your computer is not actually connected to your own network. It’s connected to the Microsoft network which is playing in a different legue when it comes to upload/download speeds then our usual home internet. This would actually benefit you if you work with a lot of large files, OneDrive and SharePoint syncs insanly fast. This is however a feature of Windows 365 as a service, not the dedicated mode.

In my mind, this is something we need to keep attention to how it develops, even if many of us are not ready to take the leap today. My bet is that THIS will be a big part of the future of Windows.

Windows 365 Boot Shared mode

Windows 365 Boot Shared mode is more like the Windows 365 Boot which went into GA last September, but with some updates. One of the major differences is that you can now add your company logo on the sign-in page to make it more relatable to your brand.

The concept behind this is to provide a shared workstation which many different users work from. Looking at different scenarios I’ve seen with customers, this could cover that “kiosk” computer in the break room in a workshop. Or maybe a good and simple way to provide a great experiance to personal working in a callcenter where you don’t have your own desk. And why not that sales station which is used by several people.

If you combine the Windows 365 Boot Shared mode with a Windows 365 Frontline license, you pretty much hit the sweet spot. Then you can sprinkle with a FIDO2 key (like Yubikey) and you even simplify the sign-in process and make it passwordless!

One big issue has always been “how do we provide a great experiance on a shared device”. Traiditionally, there has always been an issue with user profiles (if you have to many things break) but that can be addressed with the shared device policy in Microsoft Intune. However, you are still not giving a full computer experiance to the users, they are usually pretty limited and distributing applications is not as smooth as if you had a personal computer.

This would also mean that if you are working in a setup where you move around a lot, and maybe not always come back to the same computer, you can continue your work exactly where you left of but from a different computer.

Windows 365 Boot Shared mode gives you that personal experiance, but on a shared device.

Why should we care?

One thing that always seams to be a complex and tricky scenario to solve are those shared devices, especially if the user moves around a lot. Think clients of different sorts has always been a big thing here, but for many IT admins the thin clients means another tool to administrate in, instead of the tool they are spend most of their time in for managing the other devices. Using Windows 365 Boot we can leverage Microsoft Intune and bulding thin clients on Windows, by just deploying a set of policies from Microsoft Intune.

For many organization, intorducing a new management tool for thin clients is a little bit of a bump in the road since this means getting that tool approved, setup and educating the adminsitrators on how to use it if there is no pre-exisiting knowledge. It’s not necesserially a hard thing to learn a new tool, but it could slow down the implementation process for some organizations.

Key take aways

What I think we need to think about is that Windows as we know it is about to change, it won’t be over night but something is happening now. Imagine when we started seeinf Office 365 which later became Microsoft 365? That was a journey, and I think that right now we are seeing the start of this journey for Windows. I might be naive and sprinkled a little wishfull thinking over this whole thing, but I really think we will see a change over the next couple of years in what we think of as Windows and what we expect. Mind you, these are my personal thoughts and ideas.

However, the Windows 365 Boot features brings some really intersting things to the table. We can now easily deploy and manage thin clients without needing any additional tools or licenses. I think that is pretty sweet as someone who works with customers who hare heavily invested in the Microsoft echosystem. It might not be as far along and flexible as e.g. IGEL. But this would potentially get more companies started with thin clients since there really isn’t any roadblocks anymore like there used to.

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