Microsoft's Windows Intune: How 'Wave D' changes the mobile-device management game

The fourth version of Microsoft's cloud-based device-management service, is adding agent-management support for Windows RT, Windows Phone 8 and iOS devices.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Though there's been no fanfare, Microsoft has finalized the fourth version of its Windows Intune management service, and has made some noteworthy changes as to how mobile devices are managed.


Late last week, I asked when the latest version of Windows Intune would be released and was told "soon." It turns out "soon" meant December 17, according to contacts of mine who asked not to be named.

December 17 is the date that the promised new features, including the ability to manage Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 devices, are available to those purchasing Windows Intune directly. But existing customers cannot upgrade until after January 13, 2013, I am hearing. (Those with Enterprise Agreements can apply to get the update earlier, through a private Technology Adoption Program, supposedly.)

I asked the Intune team on December 18 if the fourth version -- known inside as "Wave D" -- had been released. A spokesperson confirmed it, via an e-mailed response:

"We can confirm that Windows Intune has been updated with new capabilities. We will have more to share about these updates in January."

Besides adding support for the latest versions of Windows and Windows Phone, the new version of Windows Intune enables sideloading of applications for Microsoft and non-Microsoft devices.

There's another new piece of Wave D that's worth mention: The addition of agent-based management for not only Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, but also iOS.

Update (January 4): My bad. I misread the New Signature post. There's no agent-based management in the new Intune, as far as I know.

A December 18 blog post by Reed Wiedower, the Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft partner New Signature, called out the new agent-based management capabilities, changes in the newest Intune release, compared with previous versions of Intune that relied on Exchange ActiveSync to handle mobile device management. However, the EAS approach provided "a limited set of functionality, New Signature officials said.

"There are a few gaps to close in Wave D, and it’s not going toe-to-toe with other MDM vendors on features in this release, but moving to agents significantly closes the feature war for the next release, because EAS just isn’t capable of bundling in new features, while an agent should be able to," said Wiedower. "Android sadly is still relegated to EAS for this release, but we hope it’ll be agent-based in Wave E.

"Most customers who were on Office 365 or other hosted Exchange platforms could never use EAS to manage mobile devices, so this is a huge win for customers who are mostly 'in the cloud' and looking to leverage Intune. We’ve had a few deals go south because a customer can’t install the Intune EAS server in a hoster’s datacenter. Now that problem (excluding Android) is a thing of the past," Wiedower added.

The aforementioned Microsoft spokesperson said that while EAS still can be used to provide "baseline configuration settings" with the latest Intune release, the latest version of Intune uses "native management APIs in Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, and iOS which are not based on EAS."

EAS remains the vehicle for managing Windows Phone 7 and Android devices with Windows Intune, according to Microsoft's Intune site.

As I noted earlier this week, Microsoft also has modified the pricing and licensing for Windows Intune with the latest release, providing a $6 per user per month version (with no Software Assurance rights and no Windows Enterprise license) for use for managing up to five devices.

Windows Intune, when it debuted in 2011, was a PC-management and security service (as opposed to a PC and device management service). It was codenamed "Florida," and was the realization of the never-delivered System Center Online Desktop Manager product.

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