Microsoft has expanded the beta of its Intune hosted desktop-computer management service, the company announced on Monday during the kickoff of its Worldwide Partners Conference (WPC), being held this week in Washington, D.C.
The company will open the service to an additional 10,000 users, as well as extend its availability to a number of additional countries beyond the U.S., including France, Germany, and Spain, said Alex Heaton, group product manager for Windows Intune.
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When it comes to thinking about Microsoft's cloud strategy, Windows Azure usually springs to mind. But Intune, which is more modest in scope, may provide the company with an earlier success story, if the popularity of its first beta is any indication.
The launch "exceeded our expectations," Heaton said.
Designed for midsized organizations with limited IT help, Intune provides an Internet-accessible console from which all of an organization's computers can be managed, even if the computers themselves reside in different offices.
Microsoft hosts the console on its own servers. From this console, an administrator can apply Windows updates and patches, monitor PCs, manage security policies, 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.
The company plans to make Intune generally available in early 2011.
Pricing for Intune will run $11 per seat, per month. For an extra dollar a month, the customer can also use the Microsoft desktop Optimization Pack, which provides tools for such tasks as on-site troubleshooting and managing group policies.
Microsoft chose to launch the second beta during WPC for several reasons, Heaton explained. For this conference, Microsoft wanted to emphasize its cloud computing initiatives, and the Intune service fell squarely in that category.
Secondly, Microsoft partners that do seat management for small and midsized organizations have shown a lot of interest in using Intune, Heaton said. An integrator or service support company can use Intune to manage their clients' computers. With this in mind, Microsoft has configured Intune so it can be used to manage multiple customers from a single console.
This second beta phase will be limited to customers and partners located in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, the U.K. and Italy. In the beta phase, the offer will be limited to cover five to 25 seats.