Microsoft Closes Windows Intune Beta Program

Microsoft decided to decline new beta users for its Windows Intune, a cloud-based management system for IT administrators of midsize businesses, due to what the company called "overwhelming response." Intune allows those administrators to control everything from automatic antivirus policy to diagnosing unbootable PCs via a dashboard, and provides corporate end-users with a way to check for software updates or submit an alert to an IT help desk. General release of Intune is expected a year after the month-long beta testing concludes.

Less than two days after rolling out the beta program of its cloud-based Windows Intune, a management system for IT administrators of midsize businesses, Microsoft announced that it had closed the offering to new users.

"Due to the overwhelming response to the beta invitations, we are no longer accepting new participants into the Windows Intune beta program as we have exceeded our pre-set account limit," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an April 20 email to eWEEK. "We appreciate the high level of interest from our partners and customers and are hopeful that this early response to the beta will result in solid feedback to inform product development."

In an April 20 posting on The Windows Blog, Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc confirmed that it took roughly 30 hours for beta-program slots to fill. "For those of you who are currently on the Windows Intune Beta, the product is in your hands. We are eager to receive your feedback in the Windows Intune forum."

Microsoft plans for a month of Intune beta testing; after that, general release of the platform is scheduled to come within a year.

Windows Intune gives IT administrators an enterprise-style level of control over a network, via a combination of cloud-based services, on-site PC management tools and added malware protection. Built on Silverlight, the software platform consolidates many of these functions into a dashboard that gives easy access to various windows monitoring the status and security of a network's PCs.

For administrators, that means a streamlined ability to carry out tasks such as setting automatic antivirus policy, checking on whether all software licenses are up-to-date, and diagnosing unbootable PCs through the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). For end-users, the Intune dashboard icon gives access to software updates and the ability to submit an alert to the IT help desk.

In addition, Intune will include a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription, allowing businesses to install the same common operating system on their network's PCs. In a pre-briefing with eWEEK before the April 19 unveiling, Microsoft executives declined to break down a pricing structure for the new service, which makes it difficult to determine how much a business could potentially save in Windows upgrading costs by subscribing to Intune.

Those executives suggested that the actual development of Intune is relatively recent, although the idea of leveraging the cloud of midsize businesses' IT administrators' use has apparently been a focus of Microsoft for some time. Microsoft has also been trying to excite business interest in Windows 7 Enterprise, such as by extending its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial program to Dec. 31, 2010.

Although Windows 7 has sold some 90 million licenses since its October 2009 release, the rate of consumer purchasing has exceeded that of businesses, many of which are still reeling from the effects of a long-lasting global recession. During a Jan. 28 earnings call, Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investor relations, stated that "weak business PC sales" were hampering the company's enterprise software sales despite "strong consumer demand for Windows 7 and PCs."