Microsoft Windows Intune, a cloud-based remote management service for Windows 7 PCs and mobile devices, officially launches today. In some ways, Windows Intune shows great promise -- perhaps Microsoft really is beginning to understand the managed services community. But on the other hand, Windows Intune's narrow can't fully assist many MSPs. Here's why.
Let's start with the facts. Windows Intune, a SaaS service, had been in beta since April 2010. The Windows Intune service is designed to help customers remotely manage Windows 7 desktops and mobile devices. It also includes anti-malware capabilities. Windows Intune costs $11 per seat per month, and it also offers some Windows 7 licensing advantages.
Quite a few MSPmentor readers have beta-tested Windows Intune. The early feedback: Windows Intune's core capabilities are impressive. Also, some MSP software providers -- like Autotask Corp. -- plan to integrate with Windows Intune, I've heard.
But the bigger story involves what Windows Intune lacks:
- It can't manage non-Windows devices -- MacOS, iOS (iPad, iPhone), Linux, Google Android, etc.
- MSPs can't control end-customer billing -- for some MSPs, that's a lingering concern blanketing Microsoft's entire cloud strategy.
On the one hand, I think Windows Intune has a 1990s mentality: The cloud platform focuses on pure Windows environments... it's almost like the age of Windows 95 again. But this time around SMB customers are moving fast to mixed environments -- MacOS, iPads, Android devices, etc. Established MSPs already juggle one or more RMM (remote monitoring and management) tools. Windows Intune better offer stellar capabilities if Microsoft wants to win business from those established, multi-platform MSPs.
On the other hand, sometimes it pays to focus. No doubt, some MSPs remain Microsoft-centric -- as do many small businesses. So, perhaps Windows Intune can carve out a niche for itself in that Windows-only world. Plus, Windows Intune could catch on within midsize and large enterprises that need to manage thousands of Windows devices.
But generally speaking: I think the Windows-only world is shrinking, especially in the managed services market. Even as Windows sales continue to grow, sales of non-Windows devices continue to grow even faster.
Side note: For a fantastic FAQ about Windows Intune, check out Mary Jo Foley's All About Microsoft blog.
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