Thoughts on Cloud PC experience from a macOS user perspective

By | April 6, 2022


I have been working on a Cloud PC from my Macbook Pro 2021 as my primary work device for the past four months. I can truly say I’m really pleased with it. But there are also some flaws I came across. In this article, I will try to cover all the aspects of my experience with Windows 365 Cloud PC from a Mac.

Background story

Before we jump to the experience, I would like to briefly tell you how I usually use a Windows device in my “professional life”. So, first of all, I’ve always been a Windows fanboy without a doubt. When someone said “macOS,” I would ignore it as it had never been told.

I work as a Cloud Architect designing and implementing Microsoft Cloud solutions. My usage of Windows applications is relatively minimal, I would say. For a whole week, I will be on and off the following applications: Outlook, Word, Powerpoint, Teams, Onedrive, Visio, Project, Edge, Visual Studio Code, KeePass, PowerShell, Cisco Anyconnect, GlobalProtect VPN, Fortigate VPN, and Remote Desktop Connection.

So about six months ago, I forced myself to try out my girlfriend’s MacBook pro when I needed to do some personal stuff, like checking the bank, writing blogs, etc. In the start, it was very confusing, but after a while, things started to make more sense, and I loved the “Premium” feel. I have been using a Surface Laptop and Surface Pro devices for over three years, and I like them. But I’m sorry to say it, Microsoft, but you still have some way to go in case of polishing your devices compared to Apple.

In the end, I found myself using my girlfriend’s Macbook Pro more than my Surface device when I needed to do some personal stuff. I then bought the new Macbook Pro 2021, and I’m pleased with it. I thought to myself, “I wish I could use this device for work as well, and this is where Windows 365 comes into the picture! Because let’s be honest. As an IT Professional, it’s almost impossible to work on macOS. Well, I found out it was for me.

My Experience using a Cloud PC from macOS

I’m using Windows 365 Enterprise edition. I have used both the web access and the Remote Desktop Client. I’m using the Remote Desktop Client most of the time, primarily because of the Teams optimization support and something to do with the keyboard layout. I’ll come back to that later.

Overall I must say I’m thrilled with the experience. I have always used Windows as a “local” experience and have been happy with that. I knew from the start what I wanted from a Windows Experience, and Windows 365 has truly delivered that to me. Has everything been flawless from the beginning? No, it hasn’t.

Cloud PC Size

When ordering a new physical Windows device, I wouldn’t recommend getting one lower than 4vCPUs and 16 GB of Ram to get an optimal experience. So I knew that Cloud PCs are running on server hardware in a Microsoft data center, and therefore I might not need the same amount of specs as I used to.

I started with a 2vCPU and 4GB of Ram to see what it could do. I didn’t expect much of it. I didn’t expect it to run multiple tabs on Edge. I mean, can it even start outlook? But I must say I ended up taking my own words back. With just the 4GB of ram, I could have Teams call with screen sharing, have multiple tabs opened in Edge, and receive emails on the side. Without the lack of any experience.

I can now say I ended up with the 2vCPU and 8GB of ram for my Cloud PC. But why is that if the 4GB of ram was performing well? I’m the type of person that can have 12 tabs open in Edge and have all my primary applications running without using half of them. The 4GB of ram couldn’t handle that in the end. But it will not stop me from recommending the 4GB of ram to customers for a more “minimal” workload.

Keyboard Layout

This one took me some while to get used to. On my Macbook Pro, I don’t have Win, ALT or ALTGR but instead, I have Command and Option, so how does that come together? It’s different depending on if
I’m on the Remote Desktop Client, Windows 365 portal, or docked in and using another keyboard.

Remote Desktop client

From the Remote Desktop Client, they have luckily made it fairly simple. It took some while to map it into my head, but after a couple of days, it wasn’t something I was thinking about.

Directly from the Laptop keyboard:
Win = Command
ALT = Option (Left)
ALTGR = Option (Right)

Docked in with external keyboard:
Note!: The keyboard I’m using is a Logitech MX Keys. With MX Keys, you can switch between Windows and macOS keyboards layout. The keyboard has marked keystrokes for both Windows and macOS.
The result will be a similar experience as you know it from using any other keyboard with a Windows PC.
Win = Win

Windows 365 portal

As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t been used the Windows 365 portal much as I need the Microsoft Teams optimization for best meeting performance. It seems the Command and Options button isn’t working as replacements for WIN and ALT. I have tried all kinds of combinations on the external and the integrated keyboard, but I still can’t do the actions.

Directly from the Laptop keyboard:
Win = unknown
ALT = unknown
ALTGR = unknown

Docked in with external keyboard:
Win = Unkown
ALT = Unknown
ALTGR = Uknown

Please share if anyone knows how to make these keystrokes in the Windows 365 portal from a Mac!

No need for a physical device anymore?

Although I’m happy with my experience with Cloud PC, I have still found a need to use my physical Surface device for some specific scenarios.

Customer VPN

Some of my customers use VPNs such as Cisco Anyconnect or Global Protect. Those VPN solutions work in a Cloud PC, but if a customer runs with a Full-tunnel configuration, it will break the connection to my Cloud PC. Therefore I need to have a physical device for that scenario. With the support of Nested Virtualization, I will create a dummy VM inside my CloudPC that I will use for those VPN customers.

Live sessions and online workshops

When I’m about to hold a live session on a meetup or an online workshop for customers, I will take my good old Surface Laptop 3 up. The only reason for that is the lack of supported features for Microsoft Teams in VDI environments. I think Microsoft has made some significant improvements over the last year. Still, I can’t have my camera not showing when sharing my screen, missing background picture/blur, etc., luckily. All these features will be fixed soon, so that’s another checkmark for me.

Broken script repository

In my daily work, I tend to do some PowerShell scripting. I have configured my Visual Studio Code with Github so it will synchronize my scripts all across any of my devices. Unforgettably something has gone wrong in the script paths, so I have been unable to synchronize my scripts across my devices. Most of my updated scripts are then on my Surface device. I didn’t have the time to fix it, so sometimes, I had to turn on my surface device.

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m only ten script paths away from fixing this issue.

Final Thoughts

Being able to use my device of choice and work from anywhere without a physical device’s limitation(almost) has been a great experience. I enjoy having my personal and work life completely separate. I will continue using my Cloud PC and looking forward to putting my old Surface Laptop on the shell for good when the new features come.

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