Microsoft announced new tools designed to simplify management of embedded devices and smartphones. Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 targets hardware such as thin clients, digital signs, point of service products, and kiosks, while the Beta 2 version of System Configuration Manager 2012 previews control over phones running Windows Phone 7, iOS, Android, and Symbian operating systems.
The ongoing MMS (Microsoft Management Summit) in Las Vegas has already showcased a variety of new products from Redmond, including the cloud-oriented System Center 2012 and Windows InTune products covered by our sister publication eWEEK. Now, Redmond is getting around to more earthbound issues, tackling the issue of managing smartphones and embedded devices.

 

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On March 23, the company released a downloadable Beta 2 version of its System Center Configuration Manager 2012 product, designed to run on Windows Server 2008. Noting that “consumerization is a growing challenge for IT organizations,” Microsoft said the upgraded tool will let enterprises manage “the wide range of devices that connect to Exchange ActiveSync” — including iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Symbian devices, and Windows Phone 7 handsets.

The expanded operating system support is key, since the currently offered System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 only manages Windows Mobile. (It appears, however, that SCCM 2012 will be able to exert its most granular control only via a device enrollment process for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile; other devices will reportedly be controlled only by a default ActiveSync policy.)

Microsoft has posted a lengthy list of differences between SCCM 2007 and SCCM 2012. In addition to the expanded mobile operating system support, SCCM 2012 gets a new Configuration Manager 2012 console, said to have the following benefits:

* Logical grouping of operations into the following workspaces: Administration, Software Library, Monitoring, and Assets and Compliance
* A ribbon to help you more efficiently use the console
* An administrative user sees only the objects that she is allowed to see, as defined by role-based administration
* Search capabilities throughout the console, to help you find your data more quickly

Embedded Device Management

In addition to expanding enterprises’ control over smartphones and tablets, Microsoft is also providing the ability to “deploy, assess, update, and integrate Windows Embedded devices from a single management solution.” The company says its newly announced Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 can provide a detailed inventory of embedded devices and distribute software to them — even when their disk drives have been protected by write filters.

If we read the Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 data sheet correctly, it is not an additional piece of software enterprises need to buy. Rather, Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 refers to a set of inventory extensions and plug-ins manufacturers can code into their devices — thin clients, point of service products, digital signs, and more — allowing them to be managed by the existing SCCM 2007 product.

According to Microsoft, the Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 technologies are relevant to devices built with Windows XP Embedded, Windows Embedded Standard 2009, Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded for Point of Service, and Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 operating systems. Those running Windows CE or Windows Embedded Compact 7 are apparently not supported, however.

Wyse announced that it has embarked on “Project Seattle,” through which its Windows Embedded thin clients will become compatible with Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011. The technology will be available at the end of June, the company added.

Kevin Dallas, general manager for Windows Embedded at Microsoft, stated:

With the addition of Windows Embedded Device Manager to Microsoft’s extensive management portfolio, we’re in a unique position to make the lives of IT managers a lot easier across PCs, servers and embedded devices. Previously, enterprises were forced to implement several management solutions to meet their needs, at a significant time and financial cost. We’ve made it simple for IT professionals to make simultaneous system updates across the enterprise with the familiarity of System Center Configuration Manager.

In response to a question by Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley, the company clarified that Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 only works with SCCM 2007, not the SCCM 2011 beta. “However, our roadmaps are closely aligned, and moving forward we will coordinate our future product releases,”a spokesperson was said to have explained.