VMware inhales SlideRocket for its cloudy presentationware

Next, a heavenly word processor and spreadsheet?

Server-virtualization juggernaut and cloudy-infrastructure wannabe VMware has snapped up another component that it believes will lead it to cloud domination: SlideRocket.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

SlideRocket was founded in 2007 and burst out of stealth mode in October 2008, delivering its Internet-based presentation-creation software as an alternative to using Windows desktop products such as PowerPoint. The presentation software that SlideRocket created runs on cloudy infrastructure (presumably Amazon EC2, but the company doesn't say) and stores the presentations on Amazon's S3 storage cloud.

The service includes a PowerPoint importer and allows for presentations to be created and displayed on any browser that supports Adobe's Flash Player 10 plug-in: Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Netscape on a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine. The SlideRocket service also has HTML5-playback features so Flashless iOS devices from Apple, such as iPhones and iPads, can view presentations created on the service.

The SlideRocket service has more than 20,000 customers making presentations and over 300,000 users viewing them. In July 2009, when the company received its $5m in Series B funding from Azure Capital Partners and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners (the latter led SlideRocket's Series A funding), the company tapped Chuck Dietrich, formerly general manager of Salesforce.com's mobile operations, to be CEO, with SlideRocket founder Mitch Grasso assuming the role of CTO.

VMware's acquisition of SpringSource, a supplier of open source Java frameworks, and Rabbit Technologies, for its RabbitMQ messaging platform, make sense as VMware tries to go up the cloud stack from infrastructure clouds to platform clouds.

But many people hearing about the SlideRocket acquisition might think that offering an alternative to a specific desktop application smells a bit like Novell's former CEO Ray Noorda buying up WordPerfect, Corel, and Borland to take a run at Microsoft. A run, you will recall, that failed mightily and landed Novell in the hands of Attachmate two decades later.

The SlideRocket acquisition may or may not pan out for VMware, but the company is not blowing money like a drunken sailor to take on Microsoft's desktop-application hegemony. At least not yet, anyway, and surely not like Novell did in trying to take on Microsoft.

Perhaps someone in the boardrooms of EMC or VMware liked the company's slideware service so much that they bought the company. Perhaps VMware has its eyes on other kinds of services to offer over clouds that are backed by its virtualization products for desktops and servers. ®

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