VMware, Why Are You Buying SlideRocket? - InformationWeek

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4/28/2011
08:50 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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VMware, Why Are You Buying SlideRocket?

Acquiring the presentation software company and pushing into end-user apps seems strange, but the virtualization firm's new VP of apps insists it's core to what they do.

VMware is acquiring the Web-based presentations firm SlideRocket, whose slides can update information in real time as they are displayed to an audience. If members of the audience Tweet responses, SlideRocket can analyze those messages--and update the presenter in real time, as well.

The ability to gather information, keep a presentation lively, and even guide the presenter dazzled Javier Soltero, VMware's new CTO of applications, when he first saw SlideRocket in action at its Second Street headquarters in San Francisco. He realized the underlying functions buried in SlideRocket's software--the ability to query a Google spreadsheet for new data with which to update a slide, or add a new quote out of a Google Doc--would be useful to a wider set of end-user applications, if SlideRocket's skills could be brought to bear on them.

In one sense, he said during an interview about the acquisition, SlideRocket "is just presentation software, like PowerPoint. But the entire experience of building slides online, collaborating, and sharing a real-time presentation is something different. It's the next step in delivering a new way for how end users will work."

I, too, am impressed with SlideRocket's knowhow, its 20,000 customers, and its 300,000 users. But I'm asking myself why VMware is buying it. End-user productivity applications? Is that really in VMware's charter, and in its culture?

Soltero insists it is. And he's the VP of applications there, a newly created post.

VMware is venturing into new and uncertain territory with SlideRocket. This is a company that has been doing just fine in its own domain. In the past I've been impressed with the logic of how VMware used one position to move into another, such as going from server virtualization into managing virtualization and from there into building out the public and private cloud.

Soltero said in a similar manner, it will take the SlideRocket capabilities and apply them in additional end-user applications. SlideRocket is software as a service. Slides are built using Adobe's Flex language, which runs in the Flash player on PCs and allows animations, video, or other multimedia to appear in the slides. SlideRocket has adapted its user interface to be able to run on many mobile devices.

Besides, he said, VMware was already in end-user applications with its Zimbra acquisition.

I don't find that a convincing argument. Zimbra was an excellent open source, business email system. Many universities and small businesses saw fit to implement its mail servers to get away from Microsoft Exchange license fees. But most businesses stuck with Exchange, and I don't see VMware changing that picture much just because Zimbra moved over to VMware from Yahoo. What makes VMware think its customer base wants it to supply them with end-user applications?

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