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With over 100 software companies offering some sort of mobile device management solution, one major vendor was conspicuous by its absense: Micrsosoft.

A number of small and midsized companies might have been coping by using ActiveDirectory for some remote wipe capabilities that works on more than just Windows, but the company that for years has been offering a mobile phone operating system didn’t have a full-fledged offering.

That’s about to change. Microsoft said Thursday it will be offering a cloud-based service called Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) which it said will provide comprehensive device, identity and access management with data protection from the cloud. EMS includes Windows Intune (an existing service for managing Windows PC and mobile devices), Azure Active Directory Premium (with some Android and iOS coverage)  and Azure Rights Management Services (for data protection) “to give IT the tools they need to help protect corporate assets and enable people to work on the devices they love.”

The new Azure Active Directory Premium delivers cloud-based identity and access management with single sign-on to over 1,000 popular software as a service (SaaS) applications, self-service tools for users, and machine-learning-driven security reporting and anomaly detection, Microsoft said. With Azure Active Directory Premium customers can reduce their IT costs and more easily manage their users, groups and SaaS application access.

Microsoft also announced upcoming enhancements to Windows Intune, including support for the Samsung KNOX platform, Remote to My PC capability for Android and iOS devices, and support for the next update to Windows Phone, “continuing Microsoft’s commitment to cloud-first mobile device management across all devices.” Intune already includes e-mail profile management for iOS, selective wipe, iOS 7 data protection configuration, and remote lock and password reset.

Organizations will be able to buy pieces of the suite separately, or the full suite at US$7.50 per user per month.

More details about pricing and when service will start will come at next week’s Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco.

The announcement came as CEO Satya Nadella revealed Office for iPad and free Office Mobile apps for iPhone and Android phones.

News of the EMS service comes as Microsoft is about to close its deal to buy the handset division of Nokia.

Industry analysts have been divided about whether Microsoft would get into the MDM/EMM sector. (Some say that mobile device management offers mainly device control while enterprise mobility management encompasses application protection and a broader feature set). Some analysts feel Microsoft had to get deeper into the market with an acquisition, while others, noting that these days any solution has to support competing operating systems from Android and Apple’s iOS, though a full EMM solution from Microsoft would only point to competitors.

To get Office on iPad, Office 365 subscribers can add an iPad as one of their chosen devices included in their subscription benefits. They’ll be able to create and edit documents with Word for iPad, PowerPoint for iPad and Excel for iPad. These apps are free downloads from the App Store, enabling people to read and present documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

 

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