Windows InTune Beta
PROS: Elegant, simple web-based management of PCs really works; positive implications for future direction of Microsoft's cloud efforts
CONS: Not enough Active Directory/Group Policy integration; targets wrong initial market
RATING: Four out of five stars
RECOMMENDATION: InTune offers PC management via a hosted online service. Simple almost to the point of absurdity, InTune bypasses (but respects) Active Directory and Group Policy, offering instead a simpler set of management capabilities and policies that should be welcome to overtaxed IT departments in midsized businesses. On the other hand, InTune's odd focus on the midmarket is arguably its greatest fault. This solution should be made available to businesses of all sizes and, eventually, to individuals as well. Microsoft does plan to expand the product to new markets fairly quickly, but the beta process is going to drag on into early 2011. If you get the chance, however, grab an evaluation version: This is a great example of how a cloud computing service can really make a difference.
DISCUSSION: SuperSite for Windows: InTune
Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta
PROS: Finally, a Windows-friendly UI; better standards support; performance improvements
CONS: Still slower and less standards-compliant than Chrome
RATING: Three out of five stars
RECOMMENDATION: Give Mozilla some credit: After stalling at the sub-25-percent-usage-share level for months and watching Google's Chrome run away with the enthusiast crowd, the company is finally fighting back. Available now in beta form and shipping by the end of 2010, Firefox 4 is the first version of Mozilla's flagship browser to offer an attractive and truly Windows-centric UI, and since it's bolstering its already decent performance and support for standards, that's good news. But Firefox has fallen out of favor with the digerati for a reason, and it's possible that its time has passed. (Further evidence: IBM just adopted Firefox as its corporate standard.) Will Firefox 4 be enough to turn the tide of usage patterns? We'll see, but for now, the Firefox 4 beta is a good first step.
DISCUSSION: SuperSite for Windows: Firefox 4