Microsoft is readying the next release of its on-demand Windows Intune remote desktop PC management service, adding the ability to manage third-party applications in addition to Microsoft software.
Microsoft also is sweetening the incentives it offers partners to sell the Intune service.
At its Worldwide Partner Conference that starts today in Los Angeles, Microsoft revealed a beta version of the new Intune release is now available. The company is shooting to make the full release generally available by the end of the calendar year, said Alex Heaton, director of Windows Intune product management, in a pre-conference interview.
The announcement, coming less than four months after Intune first went live, means that Microsoft is making good on its promise to roll out updates to its cloud computing products on an accelerated schedule, as do such competitors as Google and Salesforce.com.
"We've staffed up to do more frequent releases of Intune," Heaton said. "We're really committed to rapid releases."
While businesses can use Intune to manage desktop PCs in-house, solution providers – especially those expanding into managed services – are the primary audience for the Intune service, Heaton said. There has been "strong adoption among partners" of Intune since it went live March 23, but he did not provide specific sales figures.
Partners who sell the Intune service earn 12 percent of the value of a contract's first year and 6 percent of subsequent years.
Microsoft is changing the way the compensation plan works, however, so that partners get paid more quickly. Until now the 12 percent was paid in quarterly increments over a year. Now partners will get the full 12 percent commission up front in the first quarter of a signed contract, Heaton said. Payments of the 6 percent commission for subsequent years, however, will still be paid quarterly.
Heaton said Windows Intune offers partners other business opportunities, including the ability to upgrade customers using older Windows releases to Windows 7. The Intune service includes Windows 7 upgrade rights.
"There's a lot of ways partners can make money with Windows Intune," Heaton said.
As an added incentive, partners can now earn up to 50 percent of the value of a first-year Intune contract if the solution provider signs a new customer to an enterprise agreement that includes Intune and the partner helps deploy the service.
Microsoft is also increasing the number of free Intune licenses partners can use internally, from 10 to 25 under the Cloud Essentials program and from 25 to 100 under the Cloud Accelerate program. "This is in direct response to partner requests," Heaton said.
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"The new release of Windows Intune is very exciting for us, because until now Windows Intune has been a nice complimentary management platform for many of our clients PCs, and now we can actually replace some of our existing PC management tools and fully managed our clients systems with Windows Intune without a hitch," said Steve Hall, senior network engineer and CEO at District Computers, a Washington D.C.-based Microsoft channel partner.
The first release of Intune could only update software applications within the Microsoft Update Catalog. With the new release solution providers and IT managers can deploy any executable application, including new Microsoft applications like Office 2010, and software from third-party vendors such as Adobe Acrobat.
"We see this as a big benefit to users, as well as partners who do managed services," Heaton said.
The new release likewise extends its asset management capabilities beyond Microsoft software to third-party software. Heaton said that was a major request from partners.
Also new is a read-only administrator feature for when an IT employee needs to use Intune for reporting, but isn't given full access to the service's other capabilities. The new beta Intune also boasts enhanced anti-virus features and improvements to its user interface.
"One of the features that we are most excited about in the new release is the ability to push third-party applications and updates to PCs located virtually anywhere," said Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Microsoft partner also based in Washington D.C.
"This is a huge security win for our clients because as many as 69 percent of the vulnerabilities affecting typical end-point computers are found in these products," Hertz said."It is a huge win for our firm because it greatly reduces the amount of time and effort required to maintain end-point computer security. This means that we can devote this freed up time and resources towards value-add projects that align IT with business."
"Software deployment is huge, because we’ve had to use additional third-party tools to remotely deploy software until now. Not with the newer Windows Intune Beta release," said District Computers' Hall. He also praised the new release's license management and read-only administrator capabilities.