February 4, 2021
Microsoft is making available a recommended set of configuration settings to IT pros who want to set up Windows 10 devices in a cloud-first way. Called Windows 10 "in cloud" configuration, these settings apply to Windows 10, Microsoft Endpoint Manager and a subset of Windows apps. Microsoft made details about cloud config available via a new website and documentation on February 2.
Cloud config is not a new version, edition or mode of Windows, officials stressed. It is a set of settings that can be applied to existing PCs running Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education and is deployed using Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
Microsoft is targeting Windows 10 cloud config at businesses and educational institutions. Microsoft's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) area of its site describes cloud config as "a Microsoft-recommended device configuration for Windows 10, cloud-optimized for users with specific workflow needs."
Cloud config is for groups of users with simplified needs, like productivity and browsing, officials said. The ideal candidates for this would have no dependency on on-premises infrastructure; use Windows 10 devices that don't require a lot of complex settings, custom agents, and the like; and use a focused set of apps, including a couple of internal line-of-business apps, in addition to Microsoft's own Office-related apps. Devices will be configured with the default Windows 10 security baseline and receive automatic updates through Windows Update for Business.
Via cloud config, users are enrolled with 'Azure Active Directory; set up using Intune in EndPoint Manager; and receive an "IT-curated" set of apps, including the new Microsoft Edge, Teams, OneDrive and, optionally Microsoft 365 apps. (Some Microsoft 365 subscriptions include all these pieces, or each can be licensed separately.)
Microsoft is calling out frontline workers, remote workers and education users as good potential candidates for Windows 10 cloud config. As a number of us Microsoft watchers have noted, Microsoft needs a simpler, streamlined way to manage PCs, especially in education, if it intends to go head-to-head with Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Given that the first Windows 10X PCs should hit the market in the coming months -- and the rollout of Microsoft's Cloud PC virtualization service is believed to be imminent -- it's a good time for Microsoft to try (yet again) to get a handle on improving and streamlining Windows 10 PC management.