Microsoft plans on releasing the next version of Windows Intune, its cloud-based IT management platform for midsize businesses, Oct. 17.
The new release will include features present in the July 2011 beta, including the ability to remotely scan PCs from the administration console, give administrators read-only access to view PC information, and more options for reporting. The new release also gives IT pros the ability to distribute updates or applications via the Internet.
Microsoft plans on concluding the Intune beta service Nov. 17, after which customers will need to subscribe to the new version. Current Intune customers will receive an automatic upgrade.
"Each update we make to Windows Intune is based on the previous version," Alex Heaton, a spokesperson for Microsoft, wrote in a Sept. 6 posting on the Windows for Your Business Blog, "so customers will always get the latest features regardless of when the service was purchased."
In addition to cloud-based services and PC management tools, Intune also offers a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription, in theory allowing businesses to upgrade all their hardware to the same operating system. Since its release in October 2009, Windows 7 has enjoyed significant uptake by consumers and businesses, with Microsoft running a series of promotions and deals designed to boost sales among the latter.
For the past several quarters, Microsoft has made a show of wholeheartedly embracing an "all in" cloud strategy. That involves selling businesses on subscription-based services such as Intune and Office 365, in place of "traditional" boxed software. However, the latter continues to fuel a substantial portion of Microsoft's bottom line. The increased decentralization of the corporate environment, with many workers communing with a home office via smartphone and ultra-portable tablets, is also contributing towards the slow-but-steady drive into the cloud. Microsoft faces significant competition in this online arena from the likes of Google and Salesforce.
The Intune service costs $11 per PC per month. Earlier in 2011, Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay wrote that price would lead to "limited" uptake, suggesting that Microsoft "is trying to bill for values, like encryption management, not yet clear to the target market." (Kay acknowledged his firm consults for Microsoft.)
"At $11, the customer's three-year cash outlay would be worth $396, far more than the list price, $75, for Windows 7 professional," he added. "Even discounting the value of the stream of $11 payments at a generous 5 [percent] yields, a net present value of $182.02 over three years, [it's] more than twice the purchase cost."