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February Intune Update Extends Office Rights Management to Android Devices

Microsoft is planning to deliver a February service update to its Intune mobile management service, starting as early as today.

Updates for the standalone Intune service are expected to roll out between February 6 and February 11, Microsoft announced. North American Intune users will get the updates on February 9 through February 10, according to Microsoft's Intune status page.

By "standalone" Intune service, Microsoft is referring to the Intune management service unattached to its System Center Configuration Manager product. It's possible to link up Intune's mobile device management capabilities with Configuration Manager via a connector solution, but the ability to use newly released Intune capabilities with Configuration Manager seems to lag a bit. Microsoft's announcement pointed people to the Configuration Manager blog to learn when such mobile management capabilities will be available in that product.

February Intune Features
It's somewhat surprising what's considered to be a "new feature" in Intune, since it might be thought that Microsoft's evolving mobile device management solution already had those capabilities. Here is Microsoft's list of Intune updates for this month:

  • Management of Office mobile apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) for Android devices, including ability to restrict actions such as copy, cut, and paste outside of the managed app ecosystem
  • Management of the OneNote app for iOS devices. Management of Office mobile apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) on iOS devices made available in December 2014 
  • Ability to browse and install apps on Windows Phone 8.1 devices using Intune Company Portal website
  • Deployment of WiFi profiles for Windows devices using XML import and Windows Phone devices using OMA-URI (deployment of WiFi profiles currently supported for iOS and Android devices)
  • Support for Cisco AnyConnect per-app VPN configurations for iOS devices
  • Ability to require encryption on Windows 8.1 (x86) devices
  • Ability to set minimum classification of platform updates to be installed automatically on Windows 8.1 (x86) devices

By "Android devices" in the first item, Microsoft means Android for both tablets and smartphones. In the recent past, Microsoft had referred to "Mobile Office" apps for Android smartphones, which were more limited than the tablet Android apps, since they lacked document creation permissions. Those kinds of confusing details are somewhat described at this "Office on your devices" page, but the page recently was changed and now it's harder to see such distinctions. The new Android Office mobile apps management capability adds to the iOS Office mobile apps management capability that Microsoft added to Intune back in December.

Likely the restrictions on copy, cut and paste depend on having Microsoft's Information Rights Management support in place, which is offered as a service via the Microsoft Azure cloud service or as a feature to protect e-mails when using Exchange Server. Microsoft packages up the whole scenario with its Enterprise Mobility Suite, which includes access to Intune, Azure Active Directory Premium and Azure Rights Management Services, which includes Information Rights Management support. Microsoft also offers a Rights Management capability with its Office 365 Enterprise E3 plan, but it's described as mostly as protecting access to e-mails and attached documents, rather that restricting copy and paste options.

Microsoft's third improvement to Intune allows organizations to use a company Web site to distribute apps to Windows Phone 8.1 users. While that Intune capability has long been described by Microsoft, it's apparently just available with this February update.

The fourth improvement, permitting Wi-Fi profiles to be installed using Open Mobile Alliance-Uniform Resource Identifier (OMA-URI) strings seems a bit obscure. However, the use of OMA-URI strings is considered to be a way to configure nodes on mobile devices when you don't have the graphical user interface of Configuration Manager. Now, you can deploy Wi-Fi protocols on Windows devices using OMA-URI strings, in addition to being able to do that on Android and iOS devices.

Keeping Up With Intune
With so many moving cloud parts, Microsoft recently introduced a new "cloud platform roadmap," where Microsoft describes its completed work, as well as planned work and discontinued projects. Readers can find links to Intune service updates dating back to November and December currently in the new cloud platform roadmap page, but no further. The listings just link back to Microsoft Intune blog announcements, though. Perhaps the best way to track new Intune updates is to point your newsreader app to this Intune RSS feed.

It's not really clear what Microsoft includes or excludes from the cloud platform roadmap. In general, though, Microsoft tends to move its preview items into production-level status "within a couple of months," according to an explanation today by Brad Anderson, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Enterprise Client and Mobility.

That said, it's always surprising to learn what Intune can now do with each new service update. And Microsoft is now planning to deliver new Intune features on a monthly basis, going forward, according to its announcement today.

About the Author

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

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