The non-disclosure on Microsoft's Windows InTune PC management offering lifted this morning (3/23/2011). Basically, InTune is a combination of cloud services and Windows software that is designed to help IT managers keep PCs in shape for end users.
Isn't that a long sought after goal? Between "everyone runs as admin" to ubiquitous Internet access to the swarm of malware providers and targeting hackers, to up-and-coming mobile platforms, PCs are beginning to look like zebras at the waterhole.
I'm anxious to really get my feet wet with Windows InTune to see what it can do. From the literature, I can see that it adds a monthly service bill to the total cost of ownership. I can also see that it appears to be a ramp for taking Microsoft's System Center products--in particular Configuration Manager--into the "cloud."
I think that cloud computing, multi-platform mobile devices including Apple's iPad and the various Android-based tablets all bring pressure to bear on the idea that "of course mobile workers need a laptop." In this arena, Windows InTune needs to play the role of containing and curtailing service calls for mobile computers. In the office, the need is similar.
When it comes to stationary desktops, Windows InTune needs to make PCs about as easy to maintain as the thin- and zero- client devices that are waiting in the virtual wings. As the relatively inexpensive, well understood incumbent, PCs are an entrenched fixture in the workplace. But no process stands still. It's possible to see a road where virtual desktop workloads supplant physical systems. And not just for specialized tasks but for general purpose computing.
Microsoft has a pedigree in PC management. They make the OS on which most businesses run their daily lives. Microsoft lives in an ecosystem of productivity, security and managment tools that it can leverage to keep the PC cost-competitive with rival compute platforms. It will be interesting to see how well Windows InTune helps IT managers meet the productivity and cost-containment pressures of virtual, mobile and cloud-based alternatives.