The next version of Windows Intune, Microsoft's small and medium-sized enterprise client management platform, has moved into beta.
The latest edition remotely distributes software updates and applications via Microsoft's cloud service Azure, scans for malware and gathers information on the state of end-user clients, ranging from security and applications to unpatched updates.
"It lets us make sure all PCs are supported and well managed," James Lockyer, Windows Intune manager for the UK, told ZDNet UK. Microsoft sees it as useful for "organisations that don't want to make that much [infrastructure] investment", he said, or for those going through mergers and acquisitions that bring lots of disparate hardware into the organisation.
The beta is available via Springboard, Microsoft's software exploration site. It will be valid until 30 days after the release of the full product, but there will be no migration path.
It is expected that all features in the beta will be integrated into the commercial Intune release by the end of 2011, Microsoft said. Windows Intune was first released in March.
The beta's main new feature — the ability to remotely update and install applications — relies on Azure. After an application has been packaged by an administrator, it is distributed to PCs via the Azure Storage Space.
"Any Windows Installer (MSI) or EXE-based software that supports silent installation mode can be deployed through Windows Intune," Microsoft said in a statement on Tuesday. Administrators can force end-user computers managed with Intune to install updates by remotely retstarting them.
Examples of such applications include Office 2010, SAP, Adobe and Lync, Microsoft said.
A number of cosmetic changes have been made to the console as well, with the ability to right-click and perform actions now available as standard.
Microsoft could not give precise details of how Intune links to the Azure infrastructure. Pricing for the service will remain the same, the company said.
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