Microsoft Readies Windows Intune for March Launch

Microsoft is readying Windows Intune, a cloud-based IT management platform for midsize businesses, for a March rollout.

Microsoft's cloud campaign is continuing with Windows Intune, a cloud-based IT management platform the company plans to roll out March 23.

"Windows Intune builds on our history of delivering cloud services at scale, including Hotmail and Windows Update, and leverages Microsoft's cloud experience with Azure, Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365," Gavriella Schuster, a general manager at Microsoft, wrote in a Feb. 28 posting on The Windows Blog.

Windows Intune gives IT administrators for midsize businesses 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. The platform offers a streamlined ability to carry out tasks such as setting automatic antivirus policy, checking on whether software licenses are up-to-date, and diagnosing unbootable PCs. Microsoft is also bundling Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights with Windows Intune, ostensibly to allow businesses to standardize on the same operating-system version.

Starting March 23, Windows Intune will be available for either purchase or 30-day trial in 35 countries.

Microsoft originally rolled out Windows Intune beta in April 2010, only to close the offering to new users after two days of what the company described as "overwhelming response." In an April 20 posting on The Windows Blog, Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc confirmed the beta-program slots had filled in less than 30 hours.

As with other Microsoft software releases, the company used its large pool of beta testers to refine the product ahead of launch. In an April interview with eWEEK, Microsoft executives suggested that, although the actual development of Intune is relatively recent, the idea of leveraging the cloud for IT administrators' use has been a focus of the company for some time. Microsoft is also trying to sustain business interest in Windows 7 Enterprise, taking steps throughout 2010 such as extending its Windows 7 Enterprise Trial program until the end of the year.

Despite its reputation as a desktop-centric entity, Microsoft has been aggressive in pushing what it calls an "all in" cloud strategy, major components of which involve pushing a variety of cloud-based IT services to corporations. Its other cloud-based offerings include Office 365, which consolidates much of the company's productivity software onto an online platform.

Microsoft's cloud efforts face rivals on a number of fronts. In addition to Web-centric upstarts such as, which has attacked Microsoft's desktop-based offerings as outdated, tech behemoths such as Google and Oracle have been making their own forays into the business-cloud space over the past several quarters.