During the opening keynote of TechEd Europe today, news was unveiled around Microsoft making mobile device management (MDM) components of Microsoft Intune available for free as part of an Office 365 subscription.
In case you don't realize the enormity of this news, let me state it this way: "THIS IS HUGE NEWS."
In one fell swoop, Microsoft has pretty much eliminated MDM competition in the market. By providing a subset of Microsoft Intune capability with Office 365, businesses can leverage features such as remote wipe (while protecting personal data), device management, and data security all without paying anything extra. There are a number of customers today using products like Mobile Iron and AirWatch who are paying huge fees just to use a subset of the products, and all the while are still using or migrating to Office 365. Now, with MDM built into Office 365, there's no longer any need for an additional solution.
I spoke with Brad Anderson last night over the phone. Brad, of course, is the VP at Microsoft in charge of the "mobile first" half of Microsoft's new marching banner ("mobile first, cloud first"), and he talked me through how important this truly is. He will be posting a new series on his blog over the coming weeks to detail this new capability in full. He's expected to go into details about today's announcement with a couple fresh blog posts shortly.
Customers are flocking to Office 365. People want Microsoft Office over any other office suite, and it's clear that this is one area that Microsoft is doing right. Office 365 is available across multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, and Windows Phone) and is the one productivity suite that brings a unified, rich UI across all of them. Microsoft has been laboring hard at developing its cross-platform strategy and it's evidenced that in the case of Office 365, it's working.
In the vein of "history repeats itself," the release of Windows 2000 was Microsoft's solid foothold into businesses with Active Directory, and truly, this was the moment in time when Microsoft became a real Enterprise player. The company's ability to become and remain the leader in Enterprise software solutions for the next decade hinged on two things: identity and management. Active Directory brought both, giving companies the ability to login securely and then enabling IT Pros to manage those users through Group Policy. If you look at Microsoft's competitors today, their business acumen is severely lacking. They've never been able to crack the business barrier with any amount of real success. Google, for example, has renamed its business arm a couple times in the last year or so in hopes that a name change will make its intent seem more real.
Microsoft is unique in this area. With a strong business customer base, the company has more experience and success providing for the Enterprise than any other competitor. And, it discovered the recipe for this success in Active Directory. So, the company is once again calling upon its experience and integrating identity and management in the Cloud.
There's other differentiators to what Microsoft is doing, and in this case, specifically in terms of MDM. Vendors like Mobile Iron and AirWatch are not true Cloud-based services. Instead of reinventing or redeveloping just for the Cloud era, these companies are instead trying to "host" their current, on-premises offerings in the Cloud. There's quite a difference between a service built for the Cloud and one attempting to utilize a simple VM in the Cloud to run a legacy system. It may appease customers in the short term, but they'll soon realize has ineffective it is.
In fact, during our chat, Brad talked about showing the new MDM capabilities in Office 365 to potential customers recently. Those customers were either already using Office 365 or wanting to soon, but were already using a 3rd party MDM solution. After Brad's demo they were already contemplating how to end their 3rd party contract because the integrated MDM feature in Office 365 was exactly what they needed. They were already experiencing the severe drawbacks of a vendor trying to retrofit legacy code in the Cloud.
As Brad stated to me, Microsoft attempted the same thing early on, and quickly found out that it's just not possible for it to work that way. Efficiency, elasticity, scalability, and other requirements just can't be achieved when trying to fit an on-premises solution into a Cloud model. In Microsoft's early and unsuccessful testing, Brad decided that Microsoft needed to start from scratch. The company would never see success unless it built a solution that was designed specifically for the Cloud. So, Microsoft scrapped its plans and investments and the results you can see today in Microsoft Intune which is a full Cloud-enabled management solution.
The MDM component announced today, and available in the first quarter for 2015, takes a subset of Microsoft Intune and makes it available within Office 365 – again, for free. Within the standard Office 365 dashboard a new "Intune for O365" option will be made available, allowing organizations to inventory and manage devices using Office 365 with a back port to Intune. The features include policy-driven device management, a remote wipe capability that separate business and personal data (for BYOD purposes), and the ability to track, monitor, and secure Office 365 documents. The MDM function of Office 365 uses what Brad calls "containers," separating business and personal data completely from each other. No other MDM solution does this, or does it in such a complete fashion. With most businesses already using, or moving to, Office 365, why would they use anything else? Exactly. Brad's not an evil genius, he just plays one in his role at Microsoft.
And, of course, for those wanting to utilize other, more robust management pieces, Microsoft Intune will be available for total management. As we've seen, and heard even today, Microsoft is building improvements into its Cloud-based management product at a steady click. Microsoft Intune is the result of that unsuccessful experience Brad talked about and is Microsoft's decided way forward for managing PCs and devices. As new features are continually developed and released, there will be very little to gain for companies trying to hold onto legacy management systems like System Center Configuration Manager, and particularly those management systems from vendors who are still trying to run their on-premises code in the Cloud.
Today marks another step, albeit a huge one, for a Microsoft that seeks market dominance based on the successful recipes of yesteryear. Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's Executive Vice President for Cloud + Enterprise, is the individual in charge of Microsoft's Cloud First piece of its two-pronged resurgence puzzle, while Brad Anderson is leading the charge for the Mobile First expanse. Based on recent Cloud revelations by Scott and today's announcements around mobility and management, it seems both areas are well in hand.
Stay tuned. I'll be digging even deeper into this topic in the coming weeks.
To get a deeper look into the MDM features that will be available to Office 365 subscribers, take a look at Brad's most recent blog post, entitled: "EMM Game-Changing Announcement #2"