Microsoft launches hosted desktop management service

Intune monitors and updates Windows 7-based computers

After a yearlong beta program, the Windows Intune hosted desktop management service is going live, Microsoft announced Wednesday.

Designed for organizations with limited IT help, Intune is a Microsoft-hosted service that monitors and updates Windows 7-based desktop and laptop computers.

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"Intune enables customers to create a well-managed desktop environment for themselves," said Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft general manager of Windows product management. "Customers don't have to have any servers on premise at all, and can get out of managing physical assets."

Intune is one of a growing number of online, or cloud, services that Microsoft is offering for enterprises. Others include the Azure computing platform, the Business Productivity Online Suite, Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online, and a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange.

"Our goal is to take all of our on-premise offerings and move them into the cloud," Schuster said.

Over time, Intune will offer all of Microsoft's IT management software, such as System Center and Service Manager, as a service."Three or four years from now, even our largest enterprise customers may move to Intune," she said.

Microsoft starts Intune pricing at $11 per seat per month, and charges $1 per PC more for the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, a set of on-premise diagnostic tools.

The company is offering a 30-day trial of the service. While availability is not worldwide, the service will be offered in 35 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.

With the service, the customer is provided with an Internet-accessible console, from which all of an organization's computers can be managed. From this console, an administrator can apply Windows updates and patches, monitor PCs, manage security, keep inventory of PCs and remotely administer an ailing PC. Microsoft will queue the updates, as well as manage all the back-end server software needed for administration duties.

On average, a small business using Intune to manage their PCs can save about $702 per PC per year, according to an IDC report completed for Microsoft. All the savings come from reduced labor costs of fixing, managing and updating PCs on a one-by-one basis.

Beta testers of Windows Intune can continue using the service until April 18.

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