Microsoft Endpoint Manager Enables AOSP Android Device Management via Premium Add-On
Microsoft this week announced the ability to manage Android Open Source Project (AOSP) devices via Microsoft Intune, which is available as a "premium" add-on to Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) subscribers.
The AOSP management capability was released at the "general availability" commercial-release stage. Intune already can manage Android devices, but some Android devices using AOSP implementations don't comply with Google's certification requirements. Microsoft's AOSP MEM premium add-on capability lets organizations manage such devices, without having to meet Google's stipulations.
The AOSP Management Conundrum
Here's how Microsoft described the scenario that its AOSP MEM premium add-on aims to address:
Given the flexibility of the Android platform, not all variations of the core Android Open Source Platform meet Google's certification requirements for integration with Google Mobile Services (GMS). Integration with GMS is required to enable certain capabilities, such as access to the Google Play store and Firebase Cloud Messaging-based push notifications. Many devices that are now becoming critical in enterprise scenarios do not have the ability to leverage GMS but still need to be managed alongside other devices to securely access corporate resources and protect sensitive information.
There isn't a lot of Android devices that currently fit the above-described scenario. Microsoft listed just one such product line, namely RealWear devices.
"At this time, RealWear devices (running Android 10.0 and later) are the only supported devices for AOSP management in Microsoft Endpoint Manager," the announcement indicated.
These RealWear devices apparently fall into Microsoft's definition of "specialty devices" used with Intune. The specialty devices definition can be found in this Microsoft document.
MEM Premium Portfolios To Come
When it comes to Intune management, Microsoft has special MEM premium add-on plans for specialty devices, which will be sold as part of a "future premium portfolio," the announcement indicated. This bundle of specialty-device management capabilities will entail additional licensing costs for organizations.
Here's how the announcement characterized Microsoft's plans:
When we are ready to launch our new plans for advanced endpoint management, an additional license will be required to manage and protect specialty devices, including RealWear, as an add-on to your subscription that includes Microsoft Intune. For more information, see Managing Specialty devices with Microsoft Intune.
Right now, though, organizations using RealWear devices just need a subscription to Intune to use the newly released AOSP management capabilities, the announcement clarified. Microsoft didn't indicate when it would launch this new "advanced endpoint management" bundle.
The MEM Premium Shift
The notion that Microsoft is planning to charge MEM customers extra for premium add-ons goes back to April, when Microsoft kicked off the concept. At that time, Microsoft described a number of plans to add additional Intune functionality under the MEM premium banner.
MEM subscriptions include Intune, which is Microsoft's mobile management tool. What's new, though, is charging for premium MEM add-ons that will bolster Intune functionality.
The general idea of Microsoft's subscriptions, which may entail monthly or annual enlistment payments, is that organizations are paying into the ongoing developments of Microsoft's products. The extra costs for MEM subscribers to use premium add-ons, though, represents a turning point from that general concept.
The first premium MEM add-on was released back in April. It was Remote Help, a "secure" help desk service that's integrated with MEM. It was priced then at "$3.50 per user per month" and had other requirements, such as E3 or E5 licensing.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.