Microsoft: This is how Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 devices will be managed

The early 2013 of Microsoft's Windows Intune, plus System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1, are keys to the ARM-based device management kingdom.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Ever since it revealed that ARM-based Windows RT PCs and tablets would not be able to join Active Directory domains, Microsoft has been keeping users in suspense as to how Windows RT devices would be able to be managed.


On September 10, Microsoft officials finally shared a few more details about its plans.

The next version of Windows Intune, Microsoft's PC management and security service, coupled with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack (SP) 1, will be the way administrators will be able to manage Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 devices both, according to a new post on the Microsoft "Server & Cloud" blog.

From that post:

"Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT devices will be managed by the next release of Windows Intune. IT Pros will have the flexibility of using either the Windows Intune or Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 console to set mobile security policies, distribute mobile apps and view reports."

Before today, Microsoft officials declined to discuss exact timing for the next version (the fourth release) of Windows Intune. (The third version of Intune, which doesn't support Windows 8 or Windows RT, was released in June 2012.) The currently available Windows Intune release does not support Windows 8 or Windows RT. But in Microsoft's new blog post, officials said that the next Intune release would be out by early 2013.

Officials did share some of the coming changes in licensing it is planning to impement for the next Windows Intune release, however. Here's the team's list of what's coming on that front:

  • Microsoft will shift from a per-device to a per-user licensing model, with each user license for Windows Intune covering up to 5 managed devices.
  • There will be a Windows Intune user license that includes the rights to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, enabling organizations to manage those devices through either Windows Intune or Configuration Manager, or both.
  • Organizations that already own System Center 2012 Configuration Manager licenses, such as through the Core CAL (Client Access License), will have access to Windows Intune at "a reduced price."
  • Microsoft will add a version of Windows Intune that won't provide upgrade rights to Windows Enterprise.  This newer version without the Enterprise upgrade rights will be available at a lower cost that Microsoft is not yet sharing publicly.

"Further details on pricing will be provide at a later date," according to today's blog post.

Microsoft made the public beta of System Center 2012 SP1 available to testers on September 10. It's available via the Microsoft Download Center. The final version Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 is due out in early 2013, Microsoft officials said today.

Up to this point, System Center 2012 Configuration Manager has been Microsoft's solution for on-premises management, and Windows Intune for management through the cloud. With the next version of Intune and SP1 for Configuration Manager 2012, Microsoft is taking "the first step in delivering interoperability between these products through Configuration Manager’s administration console." This means customers will be able to add mobile devices managed with Windows Intune to their System Center console "and manage all the devices through one tool," explained the Softies in today's blog post.

Today's blog post doesn't share any new or additional details on the new, integrated management client that can communicate with a management infrastructure in the cloud. This new management client was something Microsoft officials said back in April 2012 that would coming at some unspecified later date. I've asked Microsoft if there are further details on this, but am expecting the answer is no. (If it's not, I'll update this post once I hear back.)

Update: One of my readers wonders whether the client/agent piece mentioned above might be the Windows Intune monitoring agent. Maybe... If so, will this be integrated into the Windows RT OS already? A Metro-style app that will be downloadable? A Desktop add-in? We don't know.

Windows Intune is based on an Exchange ActiveSync model. Earlier this year, my ZDNet UK colleague Mary Branscombe speculated that Windows Intune would be the crux of Microsoft's management strategy for Windows RT devices.

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