Microsoft betas PC management service

Microsoft unveils a new service that manages desktops for mid-sized businesses

Microsoft is beta testing a PC management service aimed at supporting midsized businesses, the company announced Monday.

The service, called Intune, will be available to 1,000 users in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

The service streamlines administrative functions by moving common administrative tasks to a hosted environment, eliminating the need to set up and manage in-house software for these tasks, said Microsoft group product marketing manager Sandrine Skinner.

From a browser console, an administration can manage all the Windows 7 PCs in the organization. "You can update any PC, no matter where it is located," Skinner said.

The service includes features such as the ability to manage Windows updates, to install and manage malware and virus protection measures, to set security policies, and to assemble an inventory of PCs and their configurations.

Users of the service will also get enterprise upgrade rights to Windows 7, as well as a package of additional administration tools, such as the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset.

Microsoft will target the service to organizations with 25 to 500 PCs.

Setting up the service requires installing client software on each of the PCs, which must be running a professional or enterprise version of Windows, either of the Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 variety. No changes will be required of the network.

Skinner touted Intune as a Microsoft move into offering cloud-based services. It uses standard Microsoft software, such as Forefront, Windows Server Update Services, and from the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, but the company hosts the software and provides a unified administrative interface.

"We're hosting the server for you. You don't need to invest in a server, or configure it," Skinner said.

Skinner did not have an estimate of when the service will be made commercially available, or how much it would cost.

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