At the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas this week, Microsoft announced the immediate availability of Windows Intune, the company's new cloud-based PC management and security service. Windows Intune is available in 35 countries and comes with a 30-day free trial, so IT pros and admins can try out the service in the real world.

"Windows Intune will help you manage and secure PCs from virtually anywhere—all you need is an Internet connection," says Microsoft General Manager Gavriella Schuster. "\\[And\\] Windows Intune includes upgrade rights to current and future versions of Windows Enterprise, so you can standardize on one version of Windows and give your employees the best Windows experience."

Although Intune lacks some of the high-end features of Microsoft's more mature on-premises management servers, it offers some major advantages, as well. It can be used to manage any Internet-connected PC, and not just those that connect regularly to corporate networks. As a hosted service, it will be improved fairly regularly by Microsoft, without any need for customers to carry the upgrade burden. Also, as Schuster notes, it comes with per-PC licenses for Windows 7 enterprise. And for just a small additional monthly cost, customers gain access to the full suite of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) tools and utilities.

Intune targets environments of all sizes. Small businesses with no IT infrastructure can use it to protect their growing businesses, whereas enterprises can use Intune to keep track of external PCs, including those used by executives at home and by business travelers.

According to a recent study by IDC, customers will save an average of over $700 per PC per year by deploying Intune, thanks largely to IT (Help desk) and user-productivity enhancements. Intune also offers a tremendous opportunity to Microsoft's partner ecosystem, since these companies can offer Intune management and easily manage multiple sites from a single console.

Windows Intune costs $11 per PC per month, though it should be noted that this cost includes a license for Windows 7 Enterprise, and those customers already on an Enterprise Agreement will get credit for pre-existing purchases. Additionally, Intune customers can license MDOP for $1 per PC per month.

In related news, Microsoft this week also announced some new features for MDOP that will appear this year, including a beta version of the Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM) tool and, in early April, a beta of the next version of the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). And on the management front, Microsoft is evolving its traditional, on-premises servers, as well. The company demoed System Center Operations Manager 2012 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 this week. The latter is currently available in a beta version.

My review of Intune will be available soon. If you're interested in signing up, or checking out the free trial version of Intune, please visit the Microsoft website.