Windows 10 vs. OS X: Which gives sys admins more control?

Microsoft is adopting Apple's approach to PC management, while also keeping the familiar Configuration Manager

Windows 10 vs. OS X: Which gives sys admins more control?
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Now, nearly everything can be managed as if it were a mobile device, using APIs at the operating system for assured reach and consistent implementation of company policies across all devices.

Since 2010's iOS 4.2, IT admins have been able to manage iPhones and iPads this way, which opened the door to dozens of mobile device management (MDM) tools. Android did the same, though to a lesser extent in 2010, with Android Froyo 2.2. Then the Mac joined the API-based management party as of 2011's OS X Lion. Now it's Microsoft's turn, as of Windows 10.

This means you can manage Windows 10 PCs via APIs rather than through separately installed client apps, likely via the same mobile management tool you now use to manage iOS devices, Android devices, and Macs.

That begs the question: How do Windows 10's management APIs stack up to those long available for OS X? (To see what mobile management APIs support, check out InfoWorld's Mobile Security Deep Dive, available in PDF and ePub versions.)

The table below shows the differences between Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan. As you can see, they shared lot of core features, but differ in some areas of management focus.

IT's dilemma: Choosing between the paths to systems management

Whether or not you use the new Windows 10 APIs, you can continue to use Microsoft's Configuration Manager, which in recent years has added support for iOS and Android's management APIs -- but not OS X's. Microsoft would prefer that enterprises use Configuration Manager on premises or Intune in the cloud to stick with Microsoft's management tools, which it recently updated

But if an IT organization would prefer to stick with a mobile management tool instead for all its client devices, Windows 10 can be managed that way too from a common console.

For that matter, so can Macs -- tools like JAMF and Centrify install agents that manage and monitor a variety of functions, similar to how Configuration Manager does for Windows.

If you'd prefer to be modern and standardize on a single, API-based management tool, Microsoft's Intune can do that for iOS, Android, Windows 10, and -- as of Nov. 23 —  OS X 10.9 Mavericks and later. Advanced mobile management vendors such as MobileIron and VMware AirWatch can manage all four operating systems.

Those mobile management vendors also offer extra capabilities outside of what the APIs provide, particularly around custom apps, just as Microsoft provides some Intune-only rights-management capabilities for Office 365 and, newly added, Power BI and Remote Desktop.

There's a looming battle for control over client management, and Microsoft intends to steer you to its technology regardless of the path you choose. It's counting on the fact that its own tools are widely used and well established in enterprises. By contrast, the leading mobile management vendors have been quicker to adopt new capabilities and think about management holistically -- and they aren't slow to support competing platforms like OS X, as Microsoft is.

IT has a lot to work to assess the possibilities, but the good news is that it now has real options across those possibilities.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.