While I generally try to just focus on one topic here each week, there's some catching up to do, so please excuse the potpourri of topics. I wasn't able to attend MMS last week, so there's a bit from there, a follow-up about Windows Thin PC, and an update on Windows Phone. Let's jump in.
Windows Thin PC, Part 2
Last week I wrote about Windows Thin PC, a locked down version of Microsoft's Windows 7 aimed at business customers that would like to repurpose aging PCs as thin clients. Maybe I should have waited a week. This week, Microsoft announced that the Community Technical Preview (CTP) version of Windows Thin PC is now available to the public, so you can check it out for yourself. Additionally, Microsoft provided a few more details about this interesting new release: It includes support for RemoteFX, enabling a graphically rich desktop experience; support for System Center Configuration Manager, which can be used to deploy and manage Windows Thin PC images; and write filter support for preventing user and application disk writes for security purposes.
System Center 2012
While Windows Intune may be the future from a PC management perspective, Microsoft's current on-premises solution, System Center, is more mature, more powerful, and more complete. And it's getting better this year with the release of System Center 2012, a growing family of on-premises servers.
System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2012 is a complete management solution not just for PCs, but for any Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) devices as well. This includes those based on iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android devices, Symbian handsets, and Windows Phones. And it works with virtualized devices as well as physical PCs and servers. Beta 2 is currently available.
Chances are, you're familiar with Microsoft Application Virtualization, or App-V, which provides an infrastructure for packaging virtualized application into packages and deploying them to user desktops. Now, Microsoft is offering up a similar scheme for server apps called, you guessed it, Server App-V. This product is exactly what it sounds like: It packages server applications and lets you easily deploy them and start them using System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM).
Well, actually, that's the interesting bit. Yes, you can use VMM in your own environments, enabling what Microsoft calls private cloud computing. But Server App-V will also be usable via the so-called public cloud using Windows Azure in the second half of 2011, Microsoft says.
But that's in the future, and a test version isn't even available yet. If you are curious about Server App-V, however, you can check out the public cloud version, which is included in the recently released Beta 2 version of VMM 2012. Note that only certain types of server apps are currently supported. Microsoft has a blog post describing this.
Windows Phone 7
And finally, I'm sure many readers are familiar with my advocacy for Microsoft's innovative and exciting Windows Phone platform. Unfortunately, since releasing Windows Phone last fall, the software giant has completely mismanaged the product, bungling software updating, obscuring the reasons for its many delays, and hiding the fact that it's partners—wireless carriers and hardware makers alike—have essentially prevented it from delivering the first two planned software updates in a timely manner.
This situation is reaching ludicrous proportions, and while I do agree that the mobile market is a long term war and not a short series of battles, it's also clear to me that Microsoft's current slow-boil strategy for Windows Phone isn't cutting it when compared to its faster moving competitors. I'm not giving up on Windows Phone, far from it. But I've lost faith that the company has what it takes to extend its work on the initial Windows Phone version into any kind of meaningful usage share this coming year. (Maybe things will change when Nokia comes on board next year.)
For this reason, I'm going to be expanding my exploration of the non-Microsoft mobile platforms that are increasingly being deployed in your businesses, including iPhone, iPad, and Android. And I'm curious about your feedback with regards to the requirements you have, organizationally, before allowing such devices into your environments. If you are deploying these devices to your users, or allowing users to bring their own devices into your environment, please drop me a note and let me know what it is that you require for such devices. One thing I'm considering, for example, is a comparison of the enterprise worthiness of the leading mobile platforms.