VMware's purchase of mobility security firm AirWatch yesterday is all about competition with Citrix, said Christy Wyatt CEO of rival mobile data management firm Good Technology.
"I think this is a response to Citrix more than anything else," she told Computing.
"VMware is primarily a server and desktop virtualisation company. Their prime area of focus is competition with Citrix. Both of these companies are looking at the decline of the PC marketplace and seeing that mobile is where their future business is coming from. Most people are going to be interacting on mobile screens rather than PC screens."
In December 2012 Citrix purchased mobile device management (MDM) firm Zenprise for $335m, a sum dwarfed by the $1.54bn ($1.17bn cash plus $365m in installment payments and stock options) that VMware has just splashed out for AirWatch.
"It's the first time we've seen one of the significant [mobility security] brands taken out" Wyatt said. "Last year AirWatch raised around a $1bn and a year later it sold for $1.5bn. It's clearly a huge validation for the market. In terms of the valuation I'd say it is about right."
Other MDM purchases by the major vendors include IBM picking up FibreLink (November 2013, estimated $200m) and Oracle acquiring start-up Bitzer (November 2013, undisclosed amount).
"The larger enterprise vendors have been taking their time working out what their mobility strategy should be. Now we're seeing them starting to act, and a consolidation has started," said Wyatt.
Wyatt said she does not see the other MDM vendors, even AirWatch under its new ownership, as being directly competitive to Good.
"Time will tell, but where we would see an AirWatch or a MobileIron was really in smaller companies, organisations that were almost reactive, where they were saying ‘how do I manage iPads', whereas we work with core Global 2000 organisations."
Citrix, perhaps, is more of a direct competitor.
"Citrix has been very vocal about wanting customers to unite all their end use devices, saying 'if you virtualise PCs then you should virtualise your iPads and smartphones and everything else'."
Providing end-to-end solutions is the way things are going, Wyatt said, and the coming months are likely to reveal whether a model that moves the PC experience to mobile or one that does the converse will win out.
"It's only logical that people are looking at a comprehensive endpoint strategy. The question is, does the predominantly desktop technology scale out to mobile, and how long will it take for there to be a truly robust end-to-end computing platform?
"The interesting question for the industry is this: will desktops really go out to mobile or will mobile displace yet more desktops? Will there be more tablets and smartphones and containerisation on PCs allowing seamless access to data anywhere any time, or will we find a way to bring the desktop experience to mobile? That will be the interesting inflection point, but we probably won't see it for another 12 to 18 months," Wyatt said.
Asked whether Good Technology has been approached by one of the major enterprise vendors, Wyatt did not answer directly, saying: "The speculation has long been that someone would make the first move then there'd be a lot of other transactions following on. But I would say we've been doing this for 16 years, we have a large customer base and are at least twice the size of what AirWatch was, so it would have to be a pretty significant investment for someone."
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