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Microsoft Releases Beta for Windows Intune Update

Microsoft posted a public beta on TechNet Monday of the next version of Windows Intune, the cloud-based systems management service. The beta version is currently expected to replace the current version of the service by the end of 2011, Microsoft officials said.

Tami Reller, a corporate vice president for Windows marketing and chief financial officer of the division, announced the Intune beta availability during Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote Monday at the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

The key feature of the new version is software distribution, Alex Heaton, director of product management for Windows Intune, said in a briefing at WPC Monday. "That was really what we heard from partners and customers was missing from Windows Intune," Heaton said.

The current version of the Windows Intune service includes the Windows Update catalog for patching, but it doesn't allow for distribution of Microsoft software or third-party patches.

The beta, which Heaton said is called the Windows Intune July 2011 Beta, allows for patching of third-party applications such as Adobe Acrobat and distribution of Microsoft software, including Office 2010 Professional Plus. The latter distribution option will make Windows Intune appealing in combination with the Office 365 cloud service, which includes rights to the full Office suite in higher end SKUs.

Not supported in the beta or the final release will be distribution of Windows operating systems. That means that Windows Intune users who want to exercise their Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights option will need to find another way to distribute that operating system.

Heaton said the new version of Intune leverages Microsoft Azure for software distribution. When administrators load software distribution packages into Windows Intune, Microsoft will store those packages in its Azure infrastructure and download the packages from Azure to the client systems the administrator designates. There will be no cost beyond the Intune subscription cost for using Azure storage, compute or bandwidth resources, Heaton said.

The original version of Windows Intune was not built on Azure because the two cloud services were developed in parallel, Heaton said.

One caveat for users interested in testing the Windows Intune service is that the beta's users will not be able to convert to the paid service once the new edition of Intune goes live. "Anyone who wants to deploy on Windows Intune should use the current version," Heaton said.

The new Windows Intune won't be called Windows Intune 2.0, but rather will be referred to as the Windows Intune December 2011 release (or whatever month the version goes live), Heaton said.

Asked how frequently Microsoft plans to update Windows Intune, Heaton said, "We don't have an exact cadence published, but we think at least every year is the kind of cadence we want to be on."

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM


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