by Jacqueline Emigh
Microsoft this week announced a second beta test and future pricing for Windows Intune, an emerging cloud-based, Windows 7-enabled management service for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with 25 to 500 desktop PCs.
While the first beta test of Intune, launched April 19, included 1,000 Microsoft customers and partners, the second beta is open to 10,000.
“Many [SMBs] don’t have the resources or budget to set up and maintain an on premise management structure and they want enterprise-class solutions,” wrote Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft’s chief blogger, in announcing the first beta back in April. “Intune simplifies how businesses manage and secure PCs using Windows cloud services and Windows 7 – making it easier for IT (information technology) staff to manage and secure PCs from virtually anywhere.”
Users can choose between an all-cloud solution or a hybrid approach which combines cloud with on-premise management, said Microsoft’s Alex Heaton, Microsoft’s group product manager for Intune, in a blog post this week. Although Intune is a tool that IT pros at companies can buy and use directly, “we expect in many cases partners (IT solution providers) will use it to manage their customers’ PCs,” he noted.
Intune’s cloud services provide PC administration, monitoring, and hardware and software asset management from a single Web-based console; remote assistance; and malware protection. Administrators can also centrally manage security policies and Microsoft updates and service packs, setting and receiving alerts on updates and threats.
In addition to these cloud services, beta participants get access to Windows 7 Enterprise upgrades, along with the on-premise management and virtualization tools in the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).
Beta 2 adds a new feature called the Multi-Account Console, aimed at letting Microsoft partners such as IT consultants, systems integrators, and value-added resellers (VARs) manage multiple customer accounts through a single Web-based console.
Microsoft has also widened the geographic regions covered by the beta to include the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, UK, and Italy. The final release of Intune is set for release in all of these regions by early 2011, according to Heaton.
Users can sign up for the second beta and try out Intune immediately on Microsoft’s Windows Intune site. “The goal of this beta is to gather the feedback we need to ensure a quality final release – so we ask that you only sign up for this beta if you are able to test it on at least five PCs. If you just want to take a look, you can check out our videos on the Windows Intune site,” Heaton said.
In the final pricing announced this week, a single subscription of $11 per PC, per month, will cover the cloud service with integrated antivirus (AV) and antispyware plus Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights. For an extra $1 per PC, per month, users will get an MDOP subscription.
In unveiling the second beta of Windows Intune at its Worldwide Partner Conference this week, Microsoft also made other announcements geared to promoting greater adoption of Windows 7 among businesses still largely settled around Windows XP.
Microsoft’s other announcements include the first release of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) to businesses; a roadmap to future Windows 7 tablets; and a new appliance to be deployed in conjunction with eBay. The new appliance will combine Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and a Microsoft-specified configuration of network, storage and server hardware.