Microsoft upgrades Intune cloud service, includes free Windows 7

With Intune, Microsoft offers software distribution, security management and features previously only available to Software Assurance customers.

Microsoft is rolling out an upgrade to its cloud software distribution and security monitoring service, Intune, seven months after it officially launched the first version. With Intune, Microsoft is giving away Windows 7 and practically giving away some of the tools previously reserved only for Software Assurance customers. While Microsoft hasn't released figures on how many companies in total have signed up for the subscription service so far, it did name names of some of its early users: These include Save the Children, the California Strawberry Commission, SkyWire Media, and Winchester College.

Windows 7
Intune is an interesting service in that Microsoft has dangled a Windows client upgrade carrot with it. Customers of the service get free license to upgrade from XP to Windows 7 and Microsoft is also hinting that Intune customers will get free Windows 8 licenses too, when the new OS becomes available. "The Path to Windows 7 and Beyond ... Intune subscription gives you rights to the most current version of Windows so you can standardize on one version," says Eric Main, in a post on the Windows for your Business blog.

Intune costs $11 per PC/month, $132 per PC/year. In addition to getting Windows 7 (and probably Windows 8), Microsoft is bundling its Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for users willing to pay an extra $1/month. MDOP was previously only available to Software Assurance customers. Microsoft requires a one-year contract for the Intune service, a company spokeserson told me.

Microsoft is promising that Intune will be a more affordable way to get all the essential capabilities it now offers through a slew of more expensive client-side software including System Center Configuration Manager, Forefront Endpoint Protection, System Center Essentials, Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, and the enterprise versions of Windows client operating systems."Eventually, Windows Intune will deliver more management capabilities than the on-premises solutions but with less cost and higher productivity," Main promises.

For those who signed up for the Intune beta, Microsoft warns that the beta will end November 17. All beta accounts that have not upgraded to the paid subscription will be removed and data deleted.

More info on new features in Intune can be found here.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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