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What is Microsoft Dev Box?

A quick look at Microsoft's new cloud-based developer workstation

A screenshot of a user's workstation running Microsoft's Dev Box service, which is showing two shortcuts to existing projects

One of the most eye-catching announcements of Build 2022 was Microsoft Dev Box. After enabling PCs in the cloud with Windows 365 last year, Dev Box is about enticing more developers to use cloud-based workstations.

The service aims to address the issue of the complicated and time-consuming setup process that can come with traditional developer workstations, instead offering a high degree of customisation. Developers can build and run applications from the off, and teams can also include their source code to immediately start running and understanding the code without having to wait for long re-builds.

This is being pitched to a variety of developers who might work with software conflicts. Dev Box is well-suited for desktops, mobile, IoT, and gaming developers, according to Microsoft.

How does Microsoft Dev Box work?

Dev Box is a cloud-based service that provides a "ready-to-code" workstation for developers and hybrid teams of any size. It allows developers to focus on the code "only they can write", according to Microsoft, enabling them to preconfigure their Dev Boxes for specific projects and tasks.

It's built on top of the cloud foundations of Windows 365, allowing users to spin up new virtualised environments inside Dev Box, which can run on all modern browsers. The service features a portal that allows developers to create and delete these 'Dev Box' environments, and also includes functions to adapt tasks so users can run a Dev Box in parallel with another environment on a different machine.

Dev Boxes can also be deployed in local Azure regions with gigabit connections, which also includes the ability to use start and stop schedules to automate the hibernation of machines.

The service supports any type of integrated development environment (IDE) or software development kit (SDK), or even any internal tools that run on Windows. They can also target any dev workload that can be built from a Windows desktop or even cross-platform apps using Windows Subsystem for Linux.

The user interface for Microsoft's Dev Box service

When building out their boxes, dev teams can select a range of stock-keeping units to define the right level of computing needed for each project. What's more, with Azure Active Directory integration, teams can rapidly onboard new team members by assigning them to Azure Active Directory groups that grant access to those Dev Boxes.

When will Dev Box be released?

There was no exact release date for Dev Boxes following its announcement at Microsoft Build, though the tech giant has set up a waiting list for its private preview, which is open now. Once signed up, users can see demos of the service and also watch build sessions to learn more about the product.

As a new service that fits into Microsoft's new Windows 365 strategy, it's likely that Dev Box will be a regularly updated platform with lots of new features and capabilities added over the coming months and years. This article will be updated as and when those new features become available.

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