Microsoft’s New Virtual Desktop Service is Here and Ready for Legacy Apps


Back in March of this year, Microsoft pulled back the curtains on the first public preview of its new virtualized desktop service known as Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD) that was announced at Ignite in 2018. Today, the company is announcing the service is now generally available which means that the company is certifying that it is ready to run production workloads.

Windows Virtual Desktop is a new cloud service that delivers a multi-user Windows 10 experience that is optimized to work with Office 365 Pro Plus. The new offering makes it significantly easier to scale Windows 10 and Office deployments on Azure and comes with built-in security and compliance.

The big carrot Microsoft is using to hopefully attract people to the service is that for customers who are willing to virtualize their Windows 7 desktops, they will offer extended service updates for the OS through January of 2023. For customers who will not be able to meet the migration deadline for the aging OS, WVD is an option to reduce your exposure once support has ended.

Last week, I spoke with Brad Anderson, CVP of the Commercial Management Experiences team within the Experiences & Devices Group at Microsoft and Scott Manchester, Group Program Manager, Windows Virtual Desktop and Remote Desktop Services at Microsoft who shared a bit more about the service.

For starters, the most popular application running on Windows Virtual Desktop during the preview program was Microsoft Office. A bit surprising, as I would have expected a legacy application to be one of the driving forces of moving to WVD but that’s not the case, plain old Office is the most popular application. Further, for those who have deployed or are thinking of deploying WVD, Microsoft says that management via Intune is coming in the near future.

WVD is a product that many have been requesting from Microsoft for many years or possibly decades. Brad Anderson stated that the sign-ups and inquiries for WVD during the preview program far outweighed their expectations. And my own personal inquiries with customers who have tried or are thinking of trying out WVD point to this being a solution that has the potential to grow very quickly.

One of the likely reasons that WVD adoption was strong during the preview period is that Microsoft is making it relatively easy to gain access to the service.

  • If you’re virtualizing desktops or apps with Windows 10 or Windows 7, there is no additional cost if you are a Microsoft 365 E3, E5, Business, F1, A3 or A5 customer or a Windows 10 Enterprise E3, E5, A3 or A5 customer.
  • Access Windows Server 2012 R2 or newer with Windows Virtual Desktop at no additional cost if you are a Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access License (CAL) customer.
  • Customers can also access Windows 10 and Windows 7 with Windows Virtual Desktop from their non-Windows Pro endpoints if they have a M365 E3/E5 or VDA per user license

While Microsoft is not talking today about the future of the service at this time, it’s clear that this offering gives Microsoft a solution if the market heads towards thin-clients. The launch of WVD is only the beginning, I fully expect Microsoft to invest heavily into this offering and to make it even more economical to adopt, in the future.

For Microsoft, the company hopes that Windows Virtual Desktop will become a key pillar of its long-term growth strategy for Azure. Microsoft’s cloud platform continues to expand each quarter and by adding the ability to run an entire virtual desktop set up without leaving the Microsoft ecosystem, Microsoft is quickly becoming a complete end-to-end solution for all aspects of the enterprise.