Microsoft Beginning Windows Intune Public Beta 2

Microsoft unveils its second public beta for Windows Intune, an IT management platform with cloud-based tools, at the Worldwide Partner Conference.

WASHINGTON-Microsoft announced the second public beta for Windows Intune, its security and management tool for IT administrators, on July 12 here at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference. Microsoft officials indicated during meetings with eWEEK that the tool was now aimed at the enterprise, in addition to the small and midsize businesses targeted by the first public beta.

WPC is a chance for Microsoft to promote the benefits of its partner network and to offer those partners a wide variety of events to attend, such as hands-on labs. The cloud has been front and center, with new products being announced such as the Windows Azure Platform Appliance, a service that brings Windows Azure's cloud-development capabilities into a company's data center; the announcement of a second public beta for Intune, too, can be seen as part of the cloud push.

"The goal of this beta is to gather the feedback we need to ensure a quality final release-so we ask that you only sign up for this beta if you are able to test it on at least five PCs," Alex Heaton, group product manager for Windows Intune, wroteJuly 12 on The Windows Blog. "Windows Intune will include the cloud management service with integrated anti-malware (AV and anti-spyware) plus Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights."

The cost will be $11 per seat, per month. Windows Intune gives IT administrators a highly granular level of control over a network, with a dashboard that monitors the status and security of a network's PCs. For administrators, this means the streamlined ability to carry out tasks such as setting automatic antivirus policy, checking whether software licenses are up-to-date, and diagnosing PCs using the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset.

This second beta features a tool, apparently suggested by Microsoft's partners, that allows IT administrators to manage multiple customers. After logging into Intune, an administrator can see which customers have a critical alert, and be taken to their machines.

Intune also includes a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription, allowing businesses to install a common operating system platform on their networks' PCs. In previous conversations with eWEEK, Microsoft executives indicated that, while the actual development of Intune is relatively recent, the company has been contemplating using the cloud to aid IT administrators' maintenance routines for some time.

In April, Microsoft rolled out the first public beta of Intune to around 1,000 users; less than two days later, the company closed testing to new users, saying it had reached capacity. This current beta test involves a larger pool of 10,000 users. Intune is scheduled to debut in early 2011.

"We want to have all the pieces in the cloud that businesses need in order to use the cloud," Heaton said in a July 12 interview with eWEEK. "If they want to do management and security from the cloud, they can use Intune."