Friday, January 15, 2010

VMware Spits Into the Wind - Buys Zimbra

What's next? Tugging on Superman's Cape? Pulling the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger? In my opinion, the future of email and collaboration belongs to Google, with Microsoft playing very strong defense shifting folks directly to Azure (which doesn't include Exchange today, but I will bet a nickel it is in the works). If the acquisition of Zimbra is an attempt by VMware to arm the service providers with a similar capability, I sincerely hope VMware is not expecting to make any money along the way.

Don't get me wrong, as I have long been a huge fan of VMware and Zimbra. The former President and CTO of Zimbra, Scott Dietzen, is a friend and sits on the board of rPath, the company that I founded. Zimbra was an rPath customer. rPath was a Zimbra customer. But I think the notion of folks running email and basic collaboration functions at small scale (i.e. any scale that doesn't match Google and Microsoft hosted solutions in the future) is a lost cause – or at least a VERY low margin cause. And I don't think VMware should get into that business (i.e. the hosted solutions business) as it is a completely different beast than selling infrastructure software licenses (ask Microsoft, they haven't got it right but they are willing to spend BILLIONS and still be wrong).

It just makes no sense for anyone in the future to take on the burden of running an enterprise collaboration service (i.e. Exchange, Zimbra) with the software model. I even believe that RIM is going to have problems sustaining the Blackberry business as I witness the integration of Gmail with my iPhone. As I survey this market, I find more and more companies quietly moving their email/calendar/messaging services to Google. If VMware thinks this move is about Microsoft, I think they are wrong. I think it is about Google, and I would not be standing in line to pull the cape or remove the mask after spitting into the wind. VMware is no south Alabama boy named Slim.