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Microsoft Offers To Manage Windows 10 Desktops for Orgs

A new service called Microsoft Managed Desktop (MMD) lets organizations offload the task of managing their Windows 10 desktops, from the initial provisioning process to routine patching, to Microsoft.

According to a Monday announcement by Bill Karagounis, general manager at Microsoft, "MMD enables customers to maximize their IT organizations' focus on their business while Microsoft manages their modern desktops."

The notion that Microsoft will actually be the one to act as the managed services provider for organizations, managing Windows 10 desktop devices, was supported in a ZDNet article by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley. She apparently talked with Karagounis, describing him as "spearheading" the MMD effort at Microsoft. The ability to have Microsoft serve in the management role for organizations was described by Foley as an "option" of the MMD program.

Microsoft partner Nintex also confirmed the nature of the MMD program, which will be based on Microsoft 365 Enterprise licensing.

"Microsoft Managed Desktop is basically billed as a secure -- end to end -- enterprise PC experience as a service," explained Brad Orluk, enterprise solution architect at Nintex, via e-mail. "MMD will allow business customers to provide a fully configured Windows desktop experience on select Microsoft devices (and select partners such HP, Dell, and Lenovo in the near future) that is completely managed -- by Microsoft -- from hardware to operating system versions to drivers and applications."

Orluk added that Microsoft plans to sell MMD on a monthly subscription basis to organizations. Microsoft will manage client devices for organizations remotely, taking over a role of the IT department.

"Essentially, the enterprise desktop infrastructure and team may no longer need to maintain a management platform (think Microsoft Intune or Symantec's Altiris) to inventory their desktop computers, provision their operating systems and applications, or patch them -- since Microsoft will be performing these tasks as a service through the power of their Azure cloud," Orluk explained.

Karagounis didn't describe the specific software and licensing elements of the MMD program, but Foley offered the following list:

Those who buy MMD will get Microsoft 365 Enterprise -- the combination of Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility + Security -- that is ready to run on Windows 10 devices which meet Microsoft's MMD specification and runtime quality bar. At first, qualifying devices will be Surface PCs only, but in the coming months, devices from HP, Dell and other PC makers will be offered as options, too, as long as they meet Microsoft's criteria.

The device criteria under the MMD program was described as a requirement to use "modern devices," according to Karagounis' description, although exactly what that entails wasn't elucidated.

While organizations typically get the Microsoft Intune mobile device management service with Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) licensing, the point of Microsoft's MMD announcement appears to be that Microsoft will perform the device provisioning, management and updating. Microsoft currently has a separate Windows AutoPilot service that's designed to let end users take care of the new device provisioning process, although it wasn't mentioned by Karagounis as being bundled with the MMD program.

Wes Miller, an analyst with independent consultancy Directions on Microsoft, also found Microsoft's MMD announcement to be a bit vague. However, he thought that Windows AutoPilot would be part of it since it's part of the EMS suite.

"To me, it seems like MMD is largely a client-side layer over Microsoft 365 Enterprise suites -- management of end-user devices and the software on them, down to some level of financing and lifecycle management," Miller indicated via e-mail. "So Intune and Autopilot (itself basically a feature of the EMS suite in Microsoft 365 Enterprise) are definitely core to this."

The MMD program is currently being used by "a small number of customers in the U.K. and the U.S.," according to Karagounis. Microsoft is planning to start the MMD program "in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in early 2019." It'll expand to other regions "in the second half of 2019," he added.

Foley said that the MMD program was originally called "Modern Workplace as a Service," a phrase that's used by reseller partners. It's also used by Microsoft, which has a Modern Workplace program for partners.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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