Microsoft has released the next version of Windows Intune, roughly seven months after the first arrival of the cloud-based service.
That release cadence suggests that Microsoft is intent on a fast pace for its cloud offerings, the better to potentially differentiate itself in that space against the likes of Google, Oracle, Salesforce and other companies also intent on conquering the business cloud.
In addition to cloud-based services and PC management tools, Intune offers a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription, in theory allowing businesses to upgrade all their hardware to the same operating system. Microsoft had long predicted that the next version of Intune would arrive Oct. 17, loaded with features such as the ability to remotely scan PCs from the administration console, administrative read-only access to view PC information, and the capability to distribute updates or applications via the Internet.
"Eventually, Windows Intune will deliver more management capabilities than the on-premises solutions but with less cost and higher productivity," read an Oct. 17 note on The Windows Blog. "We're focused on enabling these emerging workstyles-helping users complete their jobs from virtually anywhere, at any time, while still satisfying the IT professional's need for management."
That blog posting also cast Windows Intune as an ideal way for businesses to migrate from Windows XP, that aging but reliable warhorse of an operating system: "Support for Windows XP comes to an end in April 2014, making the move to Windows 7 a real and pressing issue for businesses." Although Microsoft has sold hundreds of millions of Windows 7 licenses, it is already prepping to release Windows 8 sometime in 2012. Microsoft executives have argued over the past few months that seismic changes in the tech industry over the two years since Windows 7's release justify the new operating system, which is being designed to work efficiently on tablets.
For the past several quarters, Microsoft has made a show of wholeheartedly embracing an "all in" cloud strategy, which partially involves selling businesses on subscription-based services such as Intune and Office 365 in place of "traditional" boxed software. That being said, 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, has also contributed to this slow-but-steady drive to the cloud. Microsoft faces significant competition in this area from the likes of Google and Salesforce.