The Free Trial Is Paused As Prices Roll Out
The new Microsoft 365 PC as a Service free trials have been so popular that Microsoft have had to stop accepting new applicants as it hit the maximum supported capacity a day after launch. The number of people curious to try out Windows 11 on a Cloudy PC, or simply interested in how well the virtualisation was implemented were enough for the trial platform to hit capacity. As it was a free trial the volume of potential customers has likely been artificially inflated, now that pricing has been announced many of those trying out the Microsoft 365 service may not opt to take advantage of the service.
The Register tried out the basic tier, known as the “Cloud PC Business 1VCPU/2GB/64GB” which does indeed offer those less than impressive specifications for $20/month. The browser based interface was not wonderful, running slowly on a 2019 Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop with a 100Mbps wired connection and putting enough load on the machine that the fans were spinning quite audibly. They also connected via RDP which offered the familiar windowed interface we have all used and functioned just like you were connecting to any other machine, though it also put a load on the laptop.
After trying Microsoft 365 on a Windows laptop, they then tried it on a Samsung A52 and a 7th gen iPad, both of which had no issues connecting to the virtual machine; trying to use it on a small device certainly presented an issue though. Through all three tests the virtual machine resumed exactly as it was when they disconnected from one device to connect with another. As you would expect, programs were still running and browser tabs were still on the right pages.
The pricing is a tiny bit better than what Amazon Web Services offer, but have slightly less storage than the equivalent VMs on AWS which may or may not have any impact on your preference. As is tradition, Microsoft has several prices for each tier of VM, one for business, one for business with Windows Hybrid Benefit to reduce the cost of licensed software running on the VMs and finally a price for Enterprise. With prices ranging up to $158/month for an 8 core VM with 32GB of RAM and 512GB for the base plan, there is still a significant cost involved.
Your humble hack signed up for the base level of the service: a $20/month Cloud PC with a single virtual CPU, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The signup process was not slick, produced some 404 errors as admin pages failed to load, and took more than 30 minutes to spawn a cloudy computer.