Windows InTune goes live

Windows InTuneAfter a year in beta, Microsoft officially launched Windows InTune Wednesday morning at its Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.

Windows InTune is the company’s cloud-based PC management system, offering businesses in the 25-500 PC range a tool comparable to on-site management solutions used by bigger customers.

“PC management is something that lends itself very well to being done from the cloud,” said Alex Heaton, group product manager for Windows InTune at Microsoft. “Any time you have an Internet connection, you can use InTune to stay updated and take care of incidents.”

It’s also something that lends itself well to the company’s channel partners – offering a Microsoft-approved way to manage customer networks. The company has been actively courting managed service providers and other partners since last July’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

The software has been in beta since last April with 1,000 seats, a number that was expanded to 10,000 for beta two at WPC.

For the final version, Microsoft has added one of the features most often requested by partners, the ability to integrate with solution providers’ existing professional services automation and ticketing software. Heaton said the company would be “offering guidance” on how to make InTune get along with popular solution provider tools, including Autotask and ConnectWise, with whitepapers showing how to set up InTune to work with those two software packages.

The other major technical update in the final release is an updated antimalware engine based on Microsoft’s Forefront 2010 protection engine, which offers expanded threat protection and proactive detection of threats for which a signature is not yet available.

The company is also cranking up the volume on its sales messaging, releasing new whitepapers from research company IDC that show companies can save about $700 per computer per year by moving from no management tool to Windows InTune. Another whitepaper details building a managed services practice around the software.

InTune will be sold the same way the company’s other online services are sold, with the same channel model – the customer signs up directly with Microsoft, but can include a partner of record during the registration process. That partner then makes 18 per cent of the first year revenues on the service, and six per cent each additional year. That model has come under criticism for not allowing partners to control the billing relationship with customers, but Heaton said in the case of Windows InTune, most of the money to be made is in the form of additional managed services around the actual management tool.

“It’s a tool that can make it easier to do PC management, but it’s not Microsoft doing PC management,” Heaton said. “Humans still need to make the decisions about what to deploy and when.”

Canadian pricing has been announced at $14 per seat per month, compared to U.S. pricing of $11 per seat per month.

To support partners in managing customers with Windows InTune (Heaton said the company has some 3,000 partners worldwide trained on InTune), the company has built in a dashboard that allows MSPs to manage multiple customers via a single interface. The software is also available for solution providers to use internally for free for a year through the company’s Cloud Essentials partner program, and a free trial for up to 25 customer PCs is available.

A Windows InTune subscription also offers customers a path to Windows 7, with an upgrade to the latest version of Windows included in the deal. Customers running previous versions of Windows will have the ability to upgrade to Windows 7 by downloading an image off the Web, adding migration-related services to the list of partner opportunities around InTune. Allowing customers to move to Windows 7 would appear to make Windows InTune all the more “sticky” with customers, as customers would have the option of either uninstalling Windows 7 or paying a buyout to Microsoft should they decide to abandon InTune at a future date.

In many ways, InTune rounds out the software giant’s cloud offerings, Heaton suggested, adding management-as-a-service to the company’s lineup of collaboration and e-mail (BPOS/Office 365) Platform-as-a-Service (Windows Azure), and hosted CRM through its Dynamics division.