Microsoft announced today that it has completed development of Windows Intune 2, the next release of its cloud-based PC management service. Windows Intune 2 follows the original Intune release by less than seven months, suggesting that the software giant is serious about getting this service up to speed with its more mature on-premise PC management servers.

"Our vision for Windows Intune is big: We want to take the best of the capabilities delivered through our on-premises solutions (like System Center Configuration Manager with Forefront Endpoint Protection, System Center Essentials, Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, and Windows Enterprise management and security features) and enable them through the cloud," Microsoft's Eric Main wrote in a blog post announcing the release. "Eventually, Windows Intune will deliver more management capabilities than the on-premises solutions but with less cost and higher productivity."

As you might expect, Windows Intune 2 builds on the initial release, which provided PC management and security functionality and Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights. Intune 2 adds the most crucial feature missing from version 1—software distribution—plus a few other useful features like remote tasks, read-only access, and enhanced reporting.

Current subscribers to the Intune service will get the Intune 2 upgrade seamlessly and for free in the coming weeks, Microsoft says, with all customers being migrated to the new version by the end of 2011. New customers can evaluate the service for free for 30 days by visiting the Windows Intune website.

I'll be writing more about Windows Intune 2 in Windows IT Pro UPDATE and in the print edition of Windows IT Pro magazine. But you can find out more now by visiting the Microsoft Springboard website.