Microsoft Shuts Down Second Windows Intune Beta

"As of today we're no longer signing up new users for the Windows Intune beta; however, current beta participants can continue to use the Windows Intune beta and provide feedback until the next release," said Alex Heaton, group product manager for Windows Intune, in a Monday blog post.

One of the most talked-about features in the second Windows Intune beta has been its revamped management console, which allows partners to keep track of all their customers simultaneously and respond quickly to issues.

"So far, beta testers have told us they really see the benefits of a cloud solution that they can get up and running quickly from anywhere they have an Internet connection," Heaton said in the blog post.

Managed service providers are also interested in Windows Intune's ability to manage customer networks, but the first beta wasn't as applicable to multi-tenancy as some partners would have liked. However, in the second beta Microsoft paid more attention to this capability and the result is a more business-ready offering.

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"We've kicked the tires on Windows Intune really hard, and Microsoft has been doing a lot of work to make it better," said Jerod Powell, co-founder and CEO of InfinIT Consulting, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider.

InfinIT Consulting has deployed the Windows Intune beta with around 15 customers, and Powell says it's reached the point of being a viable alternative to competing systems management products. "We've actually used Windows Intune as a replacement for Kaseya because it's got a lighter footprint and is easier to manage," he said.

Like Microsoft's BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services) suite of cloud-based Office apps, Windows Intune will give channel partners a chance to experience the comforting predictability of recurring revenue. Heaton said Microsoft expects Windows Intune to be "generally available" in 2011, but earlier indications from Microsoft suggest the launch could come early next year.

Microsoft plans to charge $11 per PC, per month for Windows Intune, for which customers get Windows Intune's management and antimalware features as well as upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise. For an extra $1 per seat monthly, customers can get on-premise management tools from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

"We think in the long run this is going to be very interesting for businesses of all sizes. We're now seeing new cloud services, and desktop management is a new opportunity in the cloud," said Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in July.