VMworld 2013 - Social Business Is MIA
According to most, last week’s VMworld was a huge success.

The big news?

A wave of new products and services designed to help IT accelerate their adoption of a software-defined data center architecture and take advantage of the value of advanced virtualization in areas such as networking and security, storage and availability, and management and automation. (In other words, let us show you how our virtualization technologies will protect you and, at the same time, give you all the advantages of the Cloud.)

The news on Socialcast?

There wasn’t any. Zip. The VMware press releases we saw didn’t even contain the word. And that’s disappointing. Maybe not to most of the 22,000 who attended VMworld last week, but to those of us who follow, work with, and/or use Socialcast, it was disappointing. Even the analysts were a little taken aback.

No news is bad news, Lepofsky told me backchannel. Perception is everything.

Agreed.

Now it seems the word Socialcast did appear on a slide, but that it might have been put there last minute and that very little, if anything, was said about it.

EUC, by the way, stands for End User Computing.

After nagging almost every analyst at VMworld, one of them told me that he was assured that Socialcast is an important part of Horizon’s future; that was all the detail that he got.

For those unfamiliar with VMware’s Horizon Suite, it’s a technology bundle that has been designed to provide mobile users with secure, consistent, 24/7 access to their desktop, applications and data from any device. The idea being that it enables enterprises to get the consistent governance they need, while workers enjoy separate personal and business workspaces independent of the device that they use.

Now there were some announcements made around Horizon; the most notable of which is that VMWare plans to offer Desktop as a Service (DaaS). Analyst Brian Madden writes that “you will be able to buy a desktop-as-a-service Windows desktop from VMware, paying them to use it. They host it, they run it, you use it.”

When this will happen is anybody’s guess. And what role will Socialcast play in VMware’s Horizon offering, we haven’t a clue.

Why No News?

It could be that VMware didn’t know (and maybe still doesn’t know) what it wanted to do with Socialcast until recently and therefore made no big plans for it. After all, late last year (and much of this year) VMware and EMC outsiders (and even some insiders) thought that Socialcast was headed to its mother company’s EMC IIG (Documentum) which is badly in need of a Social component.

It didn’t seem like a far-fetched assumption, especially because VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger spent much of the last 18 months hacking off VMWare-owned products as if they were anchors immobilizing a ship that needed to move to new waters, and pronto. “We need to get back to our core.” (paraphrasing here), he kept insisting; and it’s hard to see how Socialcast belongs there.

Not only that, but Gelsinger (when he was at VMWare mother-company EMC) is on record saying that:

Social and mobile are clearly consumer-driven trends and we weren't given consumer DNA.”

And VMware and EMC, it should be noted, share the same DNA.

So it could be that at VMworld Gelsinger chose to focus on his favorite children and to simply ignore the one he inherited, doesn’t understand (can anyone find him on Twitter?), and isn’t sure what to do with.

If so, that’s a big improvement for Gelsinger who sometimes says things (like the social/mobile DNA statement above) he doesn’t need to say; they too often plant the seeds for potential trouble.

The same can be said of VMware President and COO Carl Eschenbach who earlier this year, according to CRN, told a room full of VMware partner Exchange Conference attendees:

I look at this audience, and I look at VMware and the brand reputation we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books.”

Both Amazon and the startup community, no doubt, find this laughable.

Could Socialcast Be Up For Sale?

First, let’s make it clear, this is pure conjecture on our part; but, that being said, might VMware be looking to sell Socialcast to a non-EMC owned entity? Maybe EMC IIG president Rick Devenuti and Gelsinger couldn’t agree on Socialcast’s valuation, so VMware has decided that they’d benefit more by selling it to someone else.

That would explain why Socialcast keeps making incremental improvements that keep it as a challenger to Jive and Yammer but one that seldom wins. After all, there’s no way that Socialcast founder Timothy Young, who also co-founded and sold About.me to AOL, couldn’t come with the stuff to put his company into Gartner’s leaders quadrant, unless VMware didn’t have the bucks to support his vision, but that’s clearly not the case.

What is more likely is that VMWare saw that virtualizing mobile was more vital to their mission than Social which is why they moved wonder-boy Young from his role as VP of Social to VP of Mobile. It’s also possible that Gelsinger wanted Young out of Socialcast so that, if Socialcast were to be sold, Young wouldn’t be part of the sale.

Is Gelsinger Cloudy About What He Wants To Do With Socialcast? (And Will VMware’s New EUC Boss Help Him Clarify His Vision?)

It’s near impossible to go to an EMC-related event (VMWare included) without hearing managers parrot that Cloud, Big Data, Mobile and Social are defining this new era of computing. Maybe Gelsinger has heard it so often that he now believes the Social and Mobile part (be they consumer trends, or not.)

Perhaps that’s why he just recruited SAP’s Mobile guru, Sanjay Poonen, and appointed him General Manager of End-User computing at VMware.

And while it’s tempting to say that Poonen should have laid out his vision for Socialcast at VMworld, the criticism would be unfair; at the time of the conference (last week) Poonen had been in his job for just a few weeks, not long enough to get to know his portfolio intimately, to know what his customers would like and are willing to pay for and so on ….

However, earlier last month, Poonen did tell PandoDaily’s Fritz Nelson that he likes Social Enterprise Technology; he also commented that it might present an opportunity for him (and VMware) to create a dialogue with the CIO rather than just the VP of Infrastructure.

Nelson lays out Poonen’s vision for VMware’s EUC (Horizon) this way:

VMware, Poonen says, has automated the data center, and made it more agile, and now it is moving more forcefully to the cloud, and managing the complexity of the cloud and on premises workloads. 'As you do that,' he (Poonen) says, 'you have the opportunity to take that story to the end users, to virtualize what’s on the desktop.' The next natural place from there is mobile, and after that, he says, social.”

Nelson surmises that “That last one (social) is possibly a bridge too far.”

He then wonders, like we do, if Socialcast might not be up for sale, especially if someone shows up with the right offer.

There’s little doubt that VMware and Socialcast will assure us that Socialcast isn’t going anywhere. If they returned our calls, we’d then ask where exactly does Socialcast fit into VMware’s vision. And if VMware said that Socialcast would have to tread water until they delivered on their Horizon Suite and Mobile strategies, we’d have many new questions to ask, like if you’re offering Microsoft products in DaaS, why have clients use Socialcast when they could use Yammer? And, if you’re not “all in” on Socialcast, won’t Socialcast fall even further behind the likes of competitors like Jive, Chatter and Yammer?

You tell us. What role will Socialcast play in our future?

Title image courtesy of Dirk Ercken (Shutterstock)