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IT pros get System Center-like features with revised Windows Intune

Microsoft's cloud-based desktop management console Windows Intune will be generally available next month with new features for IT shops without Systems Center.

The next version of Windows Intune adds a new application-distribution capability that gives IT shops richer desktop management features.

Windows Intune is a Web-based management tool available to Software Assurance customers that provides the type of information that's typically available through System Center Configuration Manager, including reports, inventory data and security policies. It becomes generally available on Oct. 17, 2011.

With this release, administrators can also use Intune to deploy applications and updates to PCs. IT pros can also use the Windows Intune administration console to remotely perform full PC scans, quick scans, system restarts and more. A full feature list can be found on the Microsoft Download Center.

The beta of this release -- which is limited to 10,000 users -- became available last July.

One analyst who has tested Intune said the new version can distribute applications, which is an improvement over the initial version, which was only able to patch apps.

Though it can be used with System Center, Intune is mainly for small to midsized firms that don't want to invest in larger System Center management applications, said Donald Retallack, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. He added that large enterprises probably won't use Intune because the administrative interface is not scalable enough (though Intune does support multiple accounts).

Microsoft would not share Intune sales numbers, but this is an important product for the software company. "They expect to make more from Intune than Systems Center because it is a subscription model -- $11 per PC, per month," Retallack said. "More and more customers are moving to that type of model."

Microsoft is also expected to deliver a version of Intune for servers.

IT shops that already subscribe to Windows Intune will be automatically upgraded in the weeks following Oct. 17, so no action is required. The beta concludes on Nov. 17.

The Windows Intune client has to be installed on each PC being managed. It is available with a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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