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VMWare, RIM Risk Blowing Leads?

One announcement and one hint of an announcement show two once-dominant vendors scrambling.

It might have just been a coincidence, but Tuesday's news that Citrix is buying happened in rough proximity to VMWare's much anticipated announcement of VSphere 5. Microsoft, the third major virtualization software player, could have weighed in with its own news, but Microsoft's more inclined to plod along, knowing that the daily battles are not quite as important as the long-term war. Nevertheless, all of these announcements (or non-announcements) say something significant about the days ahead.

One of the kerfuffles that emerged after VMWare's announcement involved changes the company made to its licensing model. As my colleague Art Wittmann points out, VMWare sent a clear message about flexibility and simplification, but for many organizations, its announcement also marks a significant change (in the wrong direction) in price and approach. Some existing VMware installations will now cost more. Lots more.

For its part, Citrix has always built products (and acquired companies) around the notion of application and desktop delivery. The acquisition, at least in the eyes of Network Computing's Mike Fratto, enhances that strategy. is an automation and orchestration play, and it supports a variety of hypervisors. Fratto hints that with a few of the right moves, Citrix could offer a variety of application delivery models, from simple virtual desktops to application streaming to more cloud-based platform-as-a-service offerings, which is likely where application delivery is heading. It doesn't hurt that customers include some Citrix customers like Zynga and GoDaddy.

So where does this leave Microsoft? As Wittmann pointed out in his analysis of VSphere 5, it feels like VMWare is becoming a bit like the Novell of old: Novell provided a dominant network operating system but let Microsoft creep up with features that were good enough and, most important, cheap enough to eventually win over IT pros and developers. VSphere 5 may be a great way to distance VMWare's offering from the rest of the pack, but how long can the virtualization stalwart fend off other players, especially with the resulting community unrest over pricing?

More RIM Bashing

Yesterday also saw RIM face shareholders, who are up in arms about the company's lack of innovation. OK, they're really just concerned about the stock price, but the blame is falling on the shoulders of the co-CEOs. They're right to pin the blame on a mostly me-too series of announcements during the past several months. As for RIM's co-CEO structure, which is also under scrutiny: Let's not forget that it was in place when the company was doing well.

Regardless, the company needs to act fast. It's rumored to be announcing a series of up to seven new BlackBerry phones, many of which will come next year. Some have called this a mere distraction, an attempt to misdirect the attention or to allow the market to confuse action for progress. Announcing new phones is easy. Changing a culture isn't.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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