By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg
Sramana Mitra: Let’s move to the device and mobility part of the operation.
Mark Egan: Sure. On the device side, I would like to say I could set standards. But I think what we, as IT professionals, have to accept is that the consumer world is going to drive this. So, of course we have the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android-based devices as the main categories, if you will. About 25% of our employees are on View, which is our virtual desktop, and we have the rest on laptops.
Now, the point we are moving toward – and we are right in the middle of it – is getting to the point where we let employees choose their devices. We will give them either a stipend or some kind of allowance. That approach is something we are evaluating, and what I suggest is that the industry is really moving to the point where IT will sync. So, we have standards on how to synchronize with those devices, and we have security, and then we have some carriers just to try to drive costs down. But at the end of the day, employees pick their own device. I really believe that is where it is headed, because we can’t possibly evaluate all the products that are changing on a monthly basis.
SM: What you just said brings us to a topic that is coming up quite a lot these days. What is VMware’s strategy for productivity apps, such as the Office suite, calendar, and e-mail applications? What are you doing there?
ME: We are moving the company to Zimbra, which is a more of a Web-based e-mail system.
SM: Zimbra is your acquisition from Yahoo!, right?
ME: Yes, it’s got some collaboration tools and so forth. That is where we are heading, and we view e-mail as something that it is not a differentiator, if you will. So, I am not sure if large investment in e-mail systems is necessarily a good use of your money. That is where we are heading as far as the core e-mail and office productivity applications are concerned. We do use [Microsoft] Office products internally, and our use of them is something we will be evaluating. I think there are now some good alternatives.
SM: Yes, there are. I am hearing from a lot of organizations that Google Docs and Google Apps are making a lot of headway.
ME: Yes, I think these applications are maturing and becoming a good alternative. You know, it is very costly what a lot of companies are using today, and I think we are all closely evaluating where we spend our money in IT and asking ourselves, Are we getting the best value for this?
SM: That is the driver. It’s largely cost and the collaboration capabilities; these are the two drivers that are driving Google adoption. How does Google compare with Zimbra? I know this is going to be a tricky question to get an unbiased answer out of you. Let’s try it anyway.
ME: I think they are comparable. One of the things we have with Zimbra is collaboration. I think that is one of the features that we like about the products. And I have a personal Gmail account, but I don’t know how [Zimbra’s e-mail and Gmail] are dramatically different. Frankly, if you look at Exchange or Outlook, I don’t know that there is an enormous difference there, either. So, I think this is an example of an application that is a moving toward becoming a commodity, if you will, and it will be a [decision based on] price.
SM: People are very price sensitive right now, from what I can gather.
ME: Yes, absolutely.
SM: The same is happening to the [Microsoft] Office suite, and I think Google is gaining ground for precisely that reason – that the cost structure is significantly lower and the collaboration capabilities are better.
ME: Absolutely! I think those drivers are really going to put pressure [on Microsoft]. Those are two good examples, but I would say that across the industry, a lot of the traditional models, such as the enterprise licensing model, are under pressure. You had this really great world where a company charged X number of dollars for software, it was really hard to uninstall, the company raised maintenance every year by a certain percentage, and it was really a nice, cozy world. And a lot about this approach is being challenged. The emergence of usage-based licensing is, I think, great from a competition perspective. It’s the idea paying for what you get, what you use.