In mid-2010 I had the pleasure of being introduced to the possibilities of Windows Intune -- Microsoft's cloud-based desktop management service for Windows XP SP3, Vista, and 7 PCs -- at a special workshop at TechEd for journalists. It was finally released early in 2011, then updated in October 2011 to version 2.0. Intune lets small and medium-size businesses (those with as many as 500 users) manage systems through an $11-per-user-per-month subscription cloud service accessed through a browser. It's convenient for companies concerned about having to manage an on-premise server like System Center Configuration Manager.
Microsoft is now working on Version 3.0 of Intune and taking the opportunity to fix some of the remaining gaps in the service.
[ Get all the details you need on deploying and using Windows 7 in the InfoWorld editors' 21-page Windows 7 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
What's new -- and missing -- in Intune 2.0
The 2.0 version released in October added very welcome capabilities.
- Software distribution: You can deploy both Microsoft and third-party software through the Windows Intune service by creating software packages (in the form of .exe, .msi, and .msp files) and uploading them to a cloud storage space that is reserved for these packages.
- Third-party license management: You're no longer restricted to managing just Microsoft volume licenses. It's nice to now have a one-stop shop for all licensing.
- Improved hardware reporting: The new reporting options help you keep track of both hardware and software.
- Improved policy conflict: When Windows Server's group policy conflicts with Intune policies, you can now resolve them through the administrative console.
- Remote task improvements: You can now initiate full or light malware scans, update signatures, and reboot the system.
Other new features include a better interface and a new read-only access role so that administrators can let other people run reports and such without the ability to make any changes.