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Microsoft integrates virtual desktop, Azure Active Directory

Azure Virtual Desktop will let people use their Azure Active Directory credentials to sign in to any device. Microsoft plans more integration between the two products later.

Microsoft has rebranded Windows Virtual Desktop as Azure Virtual Desktop and added integration with Azure Active Directory.

Last week, Microsoft announced that companies will soon have the ability to connect the Azure Virtual Desktop's virtual machine (VM) with Azure Active Directory (AAD). As a result, employees can connect to the VM to access the virtual desktop from any device, using their credentials managed in AAD.

Microsoft plans to eventually provide full integration between AAD and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). Upcoming capabilities include single sign-on.

AVD will have a quick-start mode that automates setup tasks. Mark Bowker, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said small and midsize businesses will find the feature helpful.

"They're ultimately simplifying that service so users, small and medium businesses, can consume a virtual desktop or an application with less complexity," he said.

Microsoft expects to make the AAD integration generally available later this year for $10 per user, per month for the desktop and its apps.

Microsoft plans to let companies and SaaS providers stream their private apps to AVD starting July 14. The service is available at no charge until Dec. 31. Beginning Jan. 1, Microsoft plans to charge $5.50 per user per month. The price does not include Azure infrastructure services.

Letting software providers stream apps to AVD makes it both cheaper and less admin-intensive for customers, Bowker said. "Before, a software provider would provide a package of software to that business, and that business was responsible for managing and maintaining that package of software," he said.

Microsoft also released in public preview until later in the year the ability for IT staff to enroll Windows 10 Enterprise AVD VMs in Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM). That will let IT staff manage the desktops in the MEM admin center like shared physical devices.

The MEM feature will simplify the management of AVDs and provide a centralized view of physical devices and virtual desktops, said AVD general manager Kam VedBrat.

Microsoft rolled out Windows Virtual Desktop in September 2019, several months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. In 2020, demand for virtual desktops increased as organizations closed offices and had employees work from home.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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