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VMware goes back for seconds on stock buybacks

Virtual desktop wares tweaked

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Virtualization juggernaut VMware was told by its board of directors last March that it could eat $400m of its own stock last year and through the end of 2011, but the company is still hungry for its shares. Today, the board authorized the second stock repurchase program that VMware has ever done, and this time said it was setting aside $550m in cash to go out and buy even more shares on the open market through the end of 2012.

So if you work for VMware and you were expecting a cash bonus, it looks like you will be getting stock instead. And it also looks like you are strongly incentivized to help VMware make its revenue and growth targets so you can get a slice of that $950m in shares.

In a statement, VMware said that it would buy its shares from the open market and through private transactions, and that the acquisitions would help offset dilution from its equity programs. VMware also said that it will burn through the original $400m authorization by the end of March 2011 rather than through the end of this year.

As El Reg goes to press, VMware's shares are down 2.6 per cent, to $83.44 a pop, and the company has a very healthy $34.6bn market capitalization, so the two share repurchases represent a tiny amount of the company's value on the Street. However, only 19.5 per cent of the company's 414.4 million shares have been publicly floated. The rest is held by parent company EMC (which has the lion's share of the VMware stock) and partners Intel and Cisco Systems.

It is unclear if EMC, Cisco, or Intel will be among the sellers of the VMware stock under the new authorization. Even with VMware shares up by 75 percent in the past year, the stock is off the high of $97.61 set in mid-January, now is a better time to scarf up some stock than waiting until it is trading at $100 a share or more. So it is no wonder that VMware finished up its first authorization early. And if the stock gets hammered between now and 2012, the company will be poised with that $550m in cash to run back in and buy low again. (Well, relatively low.)

On the product front, VMware has announced tweaks to its View virtual desktop infrastructure and ThinApp application streaming tools.

VMware View 4.6 updates the 4.5 product that came out last August to much fanfare. The key new thing in View 4.6 is an update to the View Security Server that allows remote users coming in over wide area network connections and using the PC-over-IP (PCoIP) protocol to authenticate and log into their virtual desktops, just like users coming in from the local area network already have been able to do.

PCoIP is a protocol for streaming PC image datastreams from central servers down to thin and nearly brainless clients created by Teradici. VMware added support for PCoIP back with View 4.0 in November 2009. While VMware View 4.5 and earlier releases supported the PCoIP protocol authenticating against Security Server, this was not available over WAN links.</p.

This is done by embedding a PCoIP protocol gateway inside of the Security Server. (You can find out more in this blog post from Mark Benson, the View architect at VMware.) And the reason why this is important is because PCoIP supports 128-bit AES encryption and now you don't have to double encrypt WAN links with SSL over TCP/IP links. This speeds up the virtual desktop performance for users whose thin clients are out there on WANs, not LANs.

With ThinApp 4.6.1, also announced today, VMware says that it is doing a better job wrapping up its application streaming packages around Microsoft's Office 2010 suite of office automation tools. This is a maintenance release that fixes more than 160 issues, according to Jonathan Clark, principal engineer for the ThinApp product.

One of the most important features for ThinApp 4.6 is that is can completely virtualize and package up Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 browser, so companies using Windows 7 can nonetheless use the older browser if they need IE6 for legacy application reasons. The 4.6.1 update fixes issues with virtualized IE6 instances as well as for IE7 and IE8. ®

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