Even though Wave D is still a way off, some of the recent announcements are worth writing about now that I have had some time to discuss them with others and think about the implications. Some this is a deeper look at some of the announcements that were made back in early September, while other elements are based on conjecture, hearsay and a bit of imagination, all while being careful not to discuss anything that hasn’t been made public yet.

SCCM Competitor to Complementary Technology

At the moment Windows Intune and System Center Configuration Manager can either be positioned as complementary products, or as competitors, depending on the needs of customers. Moving forward, however, the story gets a bit clearer if you think about Windows Intune becoming the mobile device management member of the System Center family, including Windows PCs along with Windows Phone 7.x,  Windows Phone 8, Windows RT, iOS and Android.

One of the things that becomes a little clearer to me with this type of messaging is that server side support for Windows Intune, which some Microsoft partners see as a necessary evolution, don’t really seem to fit into this strategy. Whether you see this as a good, bad or indifferent strategy really depends on how you use or plan to use the product.

One thing for certain is that it definitely leaves the door open for other management technologies to address some of these server management duties for customers who don’t have SCCM, which is pretty much most SMB customers. As Microsoft haven’t discussed the fate of the System Center Essentials suite, which could deliver some of these critical server management tasks to customers who feel they are too small for the full System Center offerings, it’s purely speculation as to whether or not this would be a possible solution in the future.

Licensing Changes

There were three different ways of licensing Windows Intune mentioned, as well as a change to a per user model, which makes much more sense with the new direction. The reason why per user seems to fit better is firstly it aligns with Office 365 licensing, but secondly it allows for the user to have multiple devices, such as a desktop PC, a tablet PC, a Windows RT tablet, an Android device and an iOS device all managed by one license.

The changes to the CALs, which primarily include adding a new Windows Intune subscription without the Windows Enterprise upgrade included, as well as adding the option for a Windows Intune subscription to be added at a lower price to those licensed for SCCM. The existing Windows Intune plus subscription still exists for those that would benefit from that additional capability, but it is no longer a one size fits all approach.

The big question now is what will the price difference be without the Windows Enterprise upgrade rights included, and will this be enough of a discount to attract additional customers in the SMB space. For enterprise customers, the licensing additions to SCCM mean that Windows Intune will start getting more attention, especially when positioned as the mobile device management component of System Center.

What also makes the Windows Intune, and Windows Intune with Windows subscription more interesting, especially for larger customers, is that the SCCM client rights are included. This means that a customer can easily, at least from a licensing perspective, move from one to the other.

Mobile Device Management

This is where Microsoft really has its work cut out for it in the lead up to the release of Wave D, and the one we know the least about for now – new mobile device management capabilities. Microsoft knows that there are a number of very rich MDM solutions in the marketplace already, each of them with their own pros and cons in terms of capabilities. Will Microsoft pull out all stops to ensure that Windows Intune supports Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT in a better manner than the competing MDM solutions? Will they have adequate coverage of what you or your customers feel are the minimum requirements for an MDM solution? These are questions we need to be patient with, and I’m eager to find these things out as well.

Windows Intune As A Standalone Solution

While the information released thus far focuses strongly on SCCM integration and MDM, this doesn’t mean that PC management is being dropped. There is an immediate need for the upcoming Windows 8 to be supported, along with Windows RT. Without knowing the full feature set for Wave D, yet alone what is coming in Wave E, I feel that it is important to let your Microsoft reps know what features are important to you so that they can be added to the list of feature requests if they aren’t on there already. For Wave D, I think we can see fairly well what is happening, but the benefit of Windows Intune being a cloud based offering means that the rapid release cycle can bring about major changes in every release.