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Citrix Buys Zenprise: What's Next In BYOD?

Citrix's acquisition signals that standalone mobile device management vendors could become less common.

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Citrix's announcement Wednesday that it had agreed to purchase mobile device management (MDM) vendor Zenprise was somewhat unexpected. Zenprise, after all, was less than a month removed from its newest MobileManager release, an update that not only made the product as comprehensive as virtually any in the market, but also solidified the company's belief that mobility should be seen as an opportunity instead of a risk. Among the numerous companies that had evolved to address BYOD challenges, Zenprise seemed among those best equipped to thrive on its own terms.

Now that the dust has begun settling, however, it's become clear that Citrix sees the deal, reportedly worth $355 million, as a way to gain the end-to-end capabilities necessary to address the full spectrum of mobility concerns. This flexibility could give Citrix an advantage in a growing and increasingly competitive space. It could also, according to at least some experts, portend mobility management's next stage.

In an interview, Natalie Lambert, Citrix's director of product marketing, said that, "At the end of the day, every organization will look at mobility differently." Highly regulated industries will demand granular control over the device itself, she explained, citing geo-fencing technologies or authority over a smartphone's camera as examples. Other parties, meanwhile, "want out of device management altogether [and] just want to manage corporate content," she stated, alluding to the privacy and employee-relations challenges that come with applying IT oversight to a worker-owned device. "In the big picture," she summarized, "Citrix wants a solution that would address all of these scenarios."

[ Gather the support you'll need for a successful bring-your-own-device program. Learn 4 Steps To Build A BYOD Business Case. ]

Nevertheless, Zenprise wasn't an obvious candidate to fulfill Citrix's aims. The MDM vendor's messaging has increasingly emphasized better application and data management, with device-centric services seen as important but somewhat outdated features. Citrix, meanwhile, already had some of the app pieces in place with its CloudGateway product, the newest version of which was announced the same day as the Zenprise acquisition.

Lambert said she couldn't discuss future plans because the deal has not yet closed but offered that there's "not as much [overlap] as you might think" between Zenprise's offerings and the tools that are already in Citrix's portfolio. "Zenprise talks a lot about MDM 2.0 and expanding into the app piece," she said, "but they hadn't brought that full vision to fruition yet." She said the companies don't share capabilities so much as a common vision -- an idea that echoes what Zenprise CEO Amit Pandey wrote in a blog post that addressed the news.

Lambert couldn't divulge how this vision might unfold. But she did say that Zenprise's device management tools, though not headline features in the most recent MobileManager release, will be valuable. To illustrate, she said that Citrix can presently push mobile apps to devices through CloudGateway, but that the task of actually installing the app still falls to the user. Similarly, if an employee leaves the company, Citrix has the tools to shut off access to corporate content -- but not to remove any business apps installed on the device. "We can revoke access but can't actually remove them, so they just sit there until the user deletes them," she stated. The acquisition of Zenprise's portfolio changes all this because it allows Citrix to generate MDM user profiles that will allow apps to not only be pushed but also remotely installed or removed by IT. The deal "will bring all these little things to enhance the user experience," she said, adding that Zenprise's technology will contribute to a single "comprehensive product line."

In an email, Savid Technologies CEO Mike Davis wrote that the news "further proves that MDM itself is not a worthwhile tool." He stated it's likely that "MDM as we know it will go away," with the features either integrated into other products or offered for free. Indeed, many MDM products are provided by startups and boutiques -- but with big companies such as Dell and IBM muscling into the BYOD space, the potential for additional acquisitions is clearly high.

Davis also wrote that enterprises want a complete package that includes not only MDM but also application management, remote network access and more. "Citrix is making that a reality for enterprises with one solution," he asserted.

IDC analyst Stacy Crook stated in an email that she expects standalone players will continue to be part of the mobility scene -- but like Davis, she said that market consolidation is likely to continue. Regarding the deal, she wrote, that IDC sees it "as a positive one for Citrix and one that will help establish them as a serious player in the enterprise mobility market." She explained that "the device management piece was a missing link" for Citrix and that Zenprise "completes this puzzle."

Crook also sees value in the flexibility Lambert mentioned. "The reality of the mobility market is that it is extremely fast-paced and buyers are very concerned about getting locked into the wrong position," she wrote. "By offering a platform for enterprise mobility management that gives options, Citrix can help give customers the peace of mind that, if their needs change, the platform can adjust."

A research note written by 451 Research analysts Chris Hazelton, Chris Morales and Karin Kelley also praised the acquisition's potential while projecting that the deal could signal a shift toward integrated, rather than MDM-specific, products. The document asserts that "Zenprise was not the largest standalone MDM player, but it was one of the better positioned," and that the deal "should provide Citrix with key tools to address the future needs of the enterprise."

The 451 Research note acknowledged some of the ostensible app management overlaps between Citrix's current offerings and those in MobileManager -- but it countered that the companies' respective portfolios are "very complimentary" because "where we find what looks to be overlap ... the approach for each is different."

"As MDM matures and becomes more widely available," the research firm's note concluded, "there will be a battle between expanding standalone MDM vendors that are evolving to meet the need of IT, and integrated players that are building and bundling to meet those same needs."

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