Joe Belfiore has been a prominent figure at Microsoft over the years. However, the executive departed the company for a sabbatical in 2015. Belfiore has now officially announced his return to Microsoft and in an interview with Mashable has hinted that he will head up the company’s push towards Windows Cloud.

It should be pointed out that Belfiore actually returned to Microsoft late last year. However, this is his official return. When he left, there was a feeling that Belfiore’s sabbatical was corporate speak and he would move on to something else. As it is, he is back and could be leading Microsoft into a new era of Windows computing.

If you are unfamiliar with Joe Belfiore, he is a 25-year Microsoft veteran. Over the years he has worked on Windows, Zune, Xbox Live, and was part of the push to make Windows Phone a force. He returns as Corporate VP in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group.

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In the interview, Belfiore says his job involves ensuring Microsoft is “focusing on and responding to the education audience.”

More specifically, he believes Google’s Chromebook computers provide interesting benefits to education users. However, Belfiore points out that Windows 10 devices are “up to the Chromebook challenge”.

That leads to the idea of Windows Cloud. Microsoft is said to be working on the new SKU of Windows 10. It would be similar to the Chrome OS and is expected to be announced at Microsoft’s spring event in May.

One of the main advantages of Windows Cloud will be its ability to run full Office, something Chrome does not offer. Belfiore adds that Microsoft will not give up the ability to run full rich desktop apps.

“We have made giant progress in Windows 10 on Creators Update,” he said. For example, the platform now starts faster and “it takes less memory and hard drive space, which lets the price of devices come down,” he said.

Windows Cloud

Interestingly, Windows Cloud will not actually be a cloud-based OS. Instead, it will be a lighter version of the Windows 10 platform that runs exclusively on UWP apps. Because Microsoft’s universal platform allows the same apps to run across mobile and PC, Microsoft can deliver full apps on this lighter Windows version.

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