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Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2012 Now Available

The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2012 has arrived, Microsoft announced today.

MDOP 2012 can be downloaded by those with the rights to use it at the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center here. Alternatively, IT pros and developers can get their hands on MDOP 2012 for testing if they subscribe to Microsoft's TechNet or MSDN services.

The suite of six tools for IT pros is available for organizations with Software Assurance or Virtual Desktop Access licensing, or through a Windows Intune subscription. MDOP doesn't come free with those licenses but is priced as an option at about $10 per device. Microsoft claims to have sold 44 million MDOP licenses so far, according to its MDOP 2012 announcement.

Some of the tools in the suite earlier were at "release candidate" or beta stages, but now are thought to be complete. Microsoft's announcement noted improvements in MDOP 2012 for three of the tools -- namely, User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), Application Virtualization (App-V) 5.0 and Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 8.

UE-V for Roaming User Settings
UE-V is the newest addition to the MDOP suite, which promises to give IT pros control over application and operating system user interface settings, which can roam across Windows-based devices. UE-V works with other Microsoft desktop and application virtualization technologies, such as Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) and App-V. It isn't affected by having to switch between physical and virtual desktop settings, which can be an issue for those who used the earlier "roaming user profiles" technology, according to a blog post by A.J. Smith, a Microsoft product marketing manager on the UE-V team.

UE-V depends on the use of an agent and an SMB folder share. System Center 2012 Configuration Manager or "any electronic software distribution tool" can be used to deploy the agent. IT pros can use Group Policy to configure the agent. Microsoft provides a bunch of UE-V templates for solutions such as Office 2010, Internet Explorer versions 8, 9 and 10, as well as "Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012." However, IT pros can create their own templates to roam the settings of other applications, which is done by using a wizard called "the generator." In addition, there's a library of templates created by the community in the UE-V TechNet gallery that can be used.

App-V 5.0 for Virtualizing Apps
App-V 5.0, which Microsoft is describing as "a major release" this time, has a number of improvements. This application virtualization technology has an improved user experience that feels "more like traditionally installed applications," according to Karri Alexion-Tiernan, director of product management for desktop virtualization at Microsoft, per Microsoft's announcement.

Applications can "communicate with each other," regardless of being native or virtualized. IT pros can now turn off local application storage with a new "shared content store" feature, which is designed to help better manage the disk demands of virtual desktop infrastructure. There's also a new Web-based management console that can be used with App-V 5.0.

DaRT 8 for System Recovery
DaRT 8 now works with Windows 8 devices that tap the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (an update to BIOS), as well as GUID partition tables. Extra tools are no longer required to use DaRT on USB devices, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft also built the new DaRT 8 to work using PowerShell commandlets, allowing scripting possibilities.

DaRT essentially is a system recovery tool for use in the field via access media. It works by allowing a PC user to boot into it, which will hand over local control to a technician. It can boot from a USB, CD or DVD drive. It can be deployed via a "preboot execution environment" (PXE) or directly to the PC's local hard drive. System Center Configuration Manager can be used to deploy DaRT.

Other MDOP Changes
Microsoft had announced some major changes to the MDOP earlier this year. It indicated in April that the Asset Inventory Service (AIS) will be phased out from the MDOP suite on April 3, 2013. AIS, which is used to poll hardware and software assets in a computing environment, essentially duplicated functionality that's found in System Center Configuration Manager and Windows Intune.

MED-V, which is currently part of MDOP 2012, eventually will be phased out. However, Microsoft has said that it plans to support MED-V on Windows 7, according to a June announcement. That implies that the tool will likely be around throughout the Windows 7 lifecycle.

Other tools in the MDOP 2012 suite include Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) and Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM) solutions. The AGPM tool helps delegate responsibilities when multiple IT pros have access to making Group Policy changes across a computing environment. MBAM is a tool that helps simplify the deployment of Microsoft's BitLocker drive encryption technology. Possibly, MBAM 2.0 is still at beta -- or at least that's how it was described online today at Microsoft's MDOP product pages.

And what's a MDOP 2012 product release without getting a list of known software glitches? Lists of Knowledge Base articles associated with MDOP 2012 are already available, including those for UE-V and those for App-V 5.0.

In addition, Microsoft has provided a compendium of information to learn about the new aspects of App-V 5.0, which can be found at this blog.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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