Organizations using Office 365 will soon be able to manage iOS, Android and Windows Phone smartphone and tablets without paying anything extra.
The new features will let administrators remove corporate information and leave personal data; ensure email and documents are only synchronized on corporate phones and tablets; and prevent access from jailbroken devices using the Office 365 administration portal.
With the announcement, Microsoft is hoping to show it's serious about mobile device and app management, because to date it simply hasn't done enough, according to Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner. The launch shows Microsoft has ambitions to become a more complete management vendor.
"It shows Microsoft is serious about wanting to handle both PCs and smartphones. I think it's a really good idea and I see it as one step in Microsoft's push to take a larger share of the smartphone market," Wallin said.
The Office 365 management upgrade will become available during the first quarter next year, and was announced on Tuesday at TechEd Europe conference in Barcelona. The capabilities will be included with all Office 365 commercial subscriptions, including business, enterprise, EDU and government plans.
The big trend in the management space is tools that can manage smartphones, tablets and PCs. So far, mobile devices have been managed using separate tools, but in the long run that's too expensive.
"That's where we are heading and what everyone wants. One policy rolled out across all end points irrespective of the size of the screen," Wallin said.
The mobile device management features built in to Office 365 are powered by Microsoft Intune platform, which will offer more advanced features for enterprises willing to pay extra. They include mobile application management features and the ability to deploy certificates, Wi-Fi, VPN and email profiles automatically once a device is enrolled, for example.
Intune is also getting an upgrade within the next few months, according to Microsoft.
Adding mobile device management features is only one part of Microsoft's plan to make its online offerings more secure. The company is also adding features to detect and protect sensitive content in Office documents in Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, the company said in a blog post.
At TechEd, Microsoft also opened up Office 365 to third-party developers via APIs that let other companies add features and capabilities to the online productivity service. The company said it wants to move monitoring and analytics to the cloud, automate management and take over high-performance computing work with its latest Azure products, as well.
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