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VMware Seeks Collaboration Dominance With Socialcast Buy

It already leads the virtualized data center, now it's taking on the Microsoft/Citrix alliance with more end-user computing and cloud software.
Getting Ahead Of Its Customer Base?
But what if VMware, in its attempt to get ahead of Citrix and Microsoft, has gotten too far ahead of its customer base? Do VMware customers demand that it provide them with a layer of social networking/social collaboration on top of their existing business applications? Or does VMware need a new competitive front?

There's no question companies are interested in social networking and collaboration. Socialcast's existing customers include General Motors and Humana. VMware could use its acquisitions to put together a single, interactive user interface that reaches across applications and user devices. Its SlideRocket acquisition brought it a multi-device, software-as-a-service approach that might be more broadly applicable in today's iPad-mad marketplace than Microsoft's Windows-centric approach.

With VMware, "your social graph moves with you," said Socialcast founder and CEO Tim Young in an interview, and friends, collaborators, or potential partners can see what you're working on, follow a comment stream, and contribute their own responses via Socialcast. The virtualized service can be summoned when the employee is already inside an SAP enterprise resource planning application or Oracle finance application, said Young, through the addition of a few lines of JavaScript and HTML code.

Socialcast, like Sliderocket before it, will continue operating as an independent business unit with existing staff intact, said Young. VMware isn't looking to merely acquire an addition to its product line. It's looking for the young companies it acquires to renew its innovation mandate and give it a long-term ability to address the changing workplace.

Socialcast is the new simulcast, and VMware is the new supplier of a broadened, end-user experience, coming off a host in the enterprise cloud. Instead of static email, look for real-time comment and discussion mechanisms extended not only to knowledge workers, but also to factory and warehouse workers. They may not have been part of the discussion in the past, but their knowledge can filter up to where it will do the most good. That, at least, is the vision behind VMware's response to the next phase of virtualization and enterprise cloud development.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek.