On March 27, 2014, Microsoft's newest CEO, Satya Nadella, will take the webcast stage to make some proposed key announcements. One announcement that has been rumored for weeks is that Microsoft will finally unveil Microsoft Office for the iPad. While this, in itself, is an interesting tidbit of news (primarily because a touch-friendly Office version will release for iOS before it releases for Windows), there's another rumor that is of more interest to me.
As a longtime evangelist for Microsoft's System Center products, the latest rumor put forth by Mary Jo Foley, has me both excited and concerned. According to the report, Satya will also announce a new product and service bundle to better manage devices in the Cloud. Microsoft has long been on a development push to Cloud-enable all of its products and, despite BYOD losing market favorability, the company is pushing hard into mobile device management. One of the remaining pieces that has only a thin, MacGyver-like thread of Cloud enablement is System Center Configuration Manager.
Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft, recently held a Reddit AMA that didn't go very well. Reddit died at the start of the AMA, and while questions had been successfully posted, Brad ended up having to take the bulk of the queries and answer them on his own blog, In the Cloud. However, the questions posed and the answers given really give a tell-tale sign of what Satya might announce around the new product and service bundling that Microsoft is calling the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS). If you've not sifted through Brad's AMA answers yet, I suggest you do here: TechEd 2014 Keynote Sneak Peek
Per Mary Jo, EMS pulls together a revamped and enhanced Windows Intune with Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium and Azure Rights Management Services. The intent is to offer customers a full-service BYOD solution that is not reliant on any on-premise System Center management tools—meaning, bye-bye Configuration Manager.
In its current form, Windows Intune is considered a fine endpoint management solution for small to medium businesses, but it's not a top-class contender. However, Microsoft has invested more and more resources toward developing Windows Intune capabilities and the differences between Configuration Manager and the Cloud-heavy management solution are getting smaller and smaller. Some have said that, due to the group in charge of System Center Configuration Manager development being stretched so thin, Windows Intune development has caused Configuration Manager to suffer. And, if you look at the record number of DCRs for Configuration Manager, anyone would agree.
Configuration Manager remains the biggest revenue generator for Microsoft in the whole of the System Center suite, and it enjoys a customer-base that far exceeds the closest competitor. Tomorrow's webcast should be a good one, and the wording of the announcement will be important. Can Satya announce a Cloud-only management solution without alienating Microsoft's largest System Center customer base?
Also, based on Microsoft's recent rebranding of Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure to help eliminate Windows-centric typecasting, could EMS actually be the official new name for Windows Intune?
Microsoft will charge enterprises on a per-user basis (not on a per-device basis) and will be available via its Enterprise Volume Licensing channels starting May 1.
The webcast streams live from San Francisco on March 27, 2014 at 10am PT/1pm ET. The stream can be picked up from here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2014/mar14/03-27webcast.aspx.
Or watch it below.