Microsoft's Next Moves for Windows Intune

Microsoft's Next Moves for Windows Intune

Where is Windows Intune heading next? And where do managed services providers (MSPs) potentially fit into the conversation? MSPmentor found some answers at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011 (WPC11).

First, a little background: Windows Intune is a remote PC management platform for Windows desktop and mobile clients. It runs in Microsoft's cloud, and costs $11 per device per month. The first Windows Intune release debuted March 2011. I can understand why corporate IT managers may embrace Windows Intune to manage large fleets of PCs running  Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. But generally speaking, I think Windows Intune needs to address non-Windows devices to catch on broadly with MSPs.

Still, I'm starting to understand Microsoft's Windows-centric focus with Intune. Instead of adding Mac OS, Android, Linux and other types of platform support, Windows Intune is all about "delivering the best Windows experience today," asserts Ashvini Naidu, a Windows client product manager.

The next Windows Intune release reached public beta earlier this week. And yes, the effort remains Windows-centric, said Naidu. Key improvements found in the beta release include support for:

  • Electronic software distribution for third-party applications.
  • Remote task management, which allows MSPs to remotely manage customer PCs without asking the customer to provide access to the PC.
  • The ability to track software license agreements.
  • Hardware reporting to track PC makers, disk space, memory, CPU speed, etc.
Microsoft has not said when the new Windows Intune will reach general availability. But Microsoft's roadmap for Windows Intune extends beyond the current beta release. The long-term goal is to achieve feature parity with Microsoft System Center. Also, Microsoft is evaluating how to extend Windows Intune to manage Windows Phone 7 devices.

In the meantime, Microsoft has trained 10,000 partners (individuals, that is) on Windows Intune. Early adopters include District Computers LLC, a managed services provider that leverages Windows Intune in tandem with ConnectWise's PSA (professional services automation) software.

Microsoft has also adjust its compensation program for Windows Intune and other SaaS applications. Partners that re-sell Windows Intune will now receive recurring compensation each month. Previously, Microsoft paid Windows Intune partners on a quarterly basis.

So how many MSPs actually run Windows Intune? That's difficult to say. Naidu says Windows Intune has strong momentum, but Microsoft has not disclosed Windows Intune deployment figures or goals.

In some ways, Windows Intune is trying to solve problems that major RMM (remote monitoring and management) platforms solved years ago. Most major RMM software platforms already support electronic software distribution, patch management, endpoint security and more. Plus, established RMM software manages desktops, servers and alternative platforms like Linux and Mac OS.

Still, there are plenty of aspiring MSPs that have yet to select an RMM platform. Many of those aspiring MSPs grew up in the world of Windows, meaning they might be targets for Windows Intune.

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