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You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Microsoft’s “System Center Configuration Manager,” which IT departments can use to manage, update and deploy devices inside their organizations. But you’re probably going to be hearing a lot more about it from now on, because Microsoft just did something completely unexpected.

The upcoming version of System Center Configuration Manager, currently in beta testing, can be used to manage not just Microsoft technologies but also “the wide range of devices that connect to Exchange ActiveSync, including Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS, and Android-based devices.”

No, it’s not April 1.

Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reported the story earlier today, pointing out that the tool could undercut Microsoft’s argument that iPads aren’t as enterprise-ready as Windows 7 tablets and slates. As she notes, it looks like an example of the conflicting strategies that sometimes arise inside the company, as different product groups pursue what’s best for their own products.

See the Microsoft Download Center for details and to download the beta.

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