Microsoft is rolling out Windows Intune updates this week, ushering in new cloud-based mobile-device management (MDM) capabilities, including support for rival mobile operating systems.
First introduced in 2010, Windows Intune is the company's cloud IT management platform. Mirroring the IT market's dramatic shift toward mobile devices, the PC-centric offering has expanded to include support for non-Windows smartphones and tablets.
In a Jan. 29 blog post, the company announced that it is "providing the flexibility for organizations to choose how to manage mobile devices—including Windows and Windows Phone, iOS and Android—completely through the Windows Intune service without requiring the integration with System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager." According to Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Server & System Center business, the move represents his company's "people-centric approach" to MDM.
In a separate post, Anderson explored the benefits of Windows Intune's cloud-enabled MDM capabilities. Chief among them is a platform that evolves at the same pace as the mobile device landscape.
"Enabling people across all the devices they love brings with it the need to stay abreast of the changes and updates happening across Windows, iOS and the myriad of Android devices," said Anderson. "By delivering this as a service offering, we can stay on top of this for you."
Intune also helps Windows shops standardize on one management platform that spans across multiple device types and mobile OSes. Describing System Center Configuration Manager as "the undisputed market leader in managing desktops around the world," Anderson said his company has "integrated our Intune cloud service with ConfigMgr so organizations can take advantage of managing all of their devices in one familiar control plane using their existing IT skills."
"Windows Intune offers simple and comprehensive device management, regardless of the platform, for the devices enterprises are already using, with the IT infrastructure they already own," concluded Anderson. "Microsoft is in a unique position to address the holistic needs behind this industry shift with things like public cloud management, private cloud management, identity management, access management, security and more."
Other new features include configurable email profiles that allow administrators to set up devices with the proper email server details and policies. Mobile email profiles can be remotely wiped along with emails stored in an affected account.
Windows Intune also now supports iOS 7's "Managed open in" setting, which white lists apps and accounts used to open sensitive files. Administrators can also disable the fingerprint unlock feature on the iPhone 5S. Finally, organizations can remotely lock lost or stolen devices and reset passwords.
Microsoft clearly plans on keeping the update train rolling. In a sneak-peek of upcoming improvements, the company promised more email management options, "including conditional access to Exchange email inboxes depending on if the device is managed." Also in the works is the ability to sandbox unmanaged apps, filter URLs, block apps and enroll mobile devices in bulk.