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VMware blows $1.5bn gobbling AirWatch to boost mobe wrangling

A bit more than one Instagram in cash gives Virtzilla a grip on your mobe's every move

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Like any organisation bound by its listed status to enhance shareholder value, VMware always needs to be on the hunt for new sources of revenue.

For several years now that's meant a pursuit of end-user devices, be they mobile machines or desktop computers, in the hope that end-user computing might become VMware's “Office” to supplement ESX and vSphere's “Windows”.

Desktops proved reasonably easy prey: desktop virtualisation (VDI) has become a technology generally accepted to a be a fine idea even if it is not for everyone. VMware does well in the field, or as well as Microsoft's convoluted VDI licensing allows it to.

VMware's other efforts haven't been embraced with similar enthusiasm. From its 2010 Zimbra buy to last year's launch of the Horizon Suite, Virtzilla has brought forth well-executed ideas but hasn't reached the point at which it stands up at a results briefing and points to a surge in end-user computing revenue.

What to make, then, of news that Virtzilla will plonk down US$1.175bn of cash to acquire AirWatch, which CEO Pat Gelsinger bills as “the leading provider of enterprise mobile management and security solutions” and says will “add a foundational element to our end-user computing portfolio that will enable our customers to turbo-charge their mobile workforce without compromising security.”

One thing to consider is that VMware would not be writing a cheque of that size if it didn't have traction in end-user computing. When Vulture South talks to VMware on the topic it says it's hiring a lot of folks in the field and will have proof points for success in the near future.

But VMware can probably use a “foundational element” for mobile management because the company's Horizon Suite can do all manner of useful things to wrangle applications into mobile devices. It's weak, however, on the fleet management side, a gap AirWatch fills nicely.

Adding AirWatch to Horizon therefore gives VMware a far broader mobile management offering, which may be appreciated by users.

Whether VMware should have offered such foundations to begin with, and if doing so would have made its end-user computing business more of a stand-out, is a chicken-and-egg conundrum.

But Virtzilla will doubtless soon be talking up the importance of mobile device and application management, and the concomitant foolishness of trying to mobilise an enterprise without integrated tools. Your correspondent will happily slap down a fiver and suggest such an argument will feature in the August 25th keynotes at VMworld San Francisco.

If it does, audience reaction may well be strong: our very own Trevor Pott likes Airwatch, last year ranking it among the best of the best in the mobile device management field thanks to decent pricing and a comprehensive range of deployment options (cloud, virtual appliance, actual appliance).

Whether a positive reaction will make end-user computing something to crow about in earnings calls remains to be seen. ®

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