Once one big company acquire a small start-up with an inventive view, they all start it. Citrix have announced the acquisition  of Podio for their innovative collaborative work platform that empowers teams to work the way they want to work.

As the Citrix press release announces, the Citrix team are rightly keen to visit Denmark and see the many wonderful sights of Copenhagen, but more importantly bring on-board a team that have developed an ecosystem to enable people to connect, share and collaborate regardless of location or device.

There are a range of on-line collaboration tools available. Why would a vendor like Citrix typically associated with application and desktop virtualisation need to add to its ShareFile acquisition?  Surely DaaS and BYOD is the future Citrix should be dealing with? Does this mark a divergence? Is this nFuse Elite for the Web 3.0 generation?


So Podio isn’t another Desktop Virtualization Tool?

No.

We discussed Podio when it was released in 2011 – where I speculated that such social work platform herald the beginning-of-the-end of desktops.

Podio has grown since then. Far more applications from its App Store,  integration with Google, Box and Dropbox. Podio have developed a platform that enables small and medium-sized businesses and teams within larger organizations to be able to manage all types of business processes and associated work-flows using purpose-built apps and configurable workspaces.

There are a number of  tools focused on collaboration where the “collaboration” is around documents and document workflow. Huddle, Knowledge Tree, Microsoft’s Office Live, Google Apps. There are a number of services offering specific services – say around project management (CopperProject, Wrike) or CRM.

What sets Podio’s platform apart is that as well as being a collaboration platform (with an interface not dissimilar to early FaceBook) your team(s) can also either choose from a set of pre-configured apps, modify those apps or create their own in a self-build environment. This enables workgroups to tailor their work-flows and collaboration activities to their projects and the way they want to work.

Since our review last April Podio has added integration with a range of traditional business solutions, plus data storage, on-line collaboration and content tools, including Dropbox, Box, Google Apps, Google Docs, Google Alerts, Evernote, Zendesk, FreshBooks, Instapaper and Campaign Monitor.

The Future is not in a Desktop

It is a reality that a key requirement for users is to get on with their job. To work with the data they know in a fashion that suits them.

This is particularly important in the SME/SMB environment where there simply isn’t the resource available to have a dedicated IT – or even in a large organisation where a getting a dedicated IT resource can be either expensive, time consuming or both.

Moreover, the work/home, PC/laptop/mobile device balances are often far more fluid. Users today are more technology comfortable. Most importantly – many businesses deal in and around the trading information – collaboration between organisations is key. Traditional methods of communication – face-to-face conversation, faxing, telephone, email –  often are at odds with a disparate team where disparate can include both geography, work/life timeframes and time-zones.

While there are a wide range of “traditional” Windows desktop applications – there is an ever increasing reliance on tools that can move between devices – be they managed corporate devices, home machines, tablet and smartphones. Yes, it is possible to deliver a virtual desktop to those devices – but those devices run a browser. Why deliver a desktop OS when it is the user’s data and application that are key? Our own

Deliver a Workspace

The Virtualization Practice analyst, Simon Bramfitt, discussed this week the nature of the desktop.  A key point is that organisations have a challenge,  not so much in putting a new consumer-friendly face on existing services so much as doing so in a way that works across the much broader array of client devices.

There is a growing trend to provide “workspace” rather than “desktop” services. Originally a solution focused at larger corporates, companies such as VisionApp with CloudFactory, or Centrix Software with Universal Workspace have  platforms to aggregate applications and content together that can be presented to users in a standard  manner regardless of platform that are appealing to a wider audience. Citrix have already started down this road with their NetScaler Cloud Gateway being offered as orchestrating delivery of SaaS, web and windows apps. But such “wider audience” is still often beyond the requirements of a workgroup, or a smaller business. Importantly, these services aggregate other applications rather than allow users to manage and manipluate applications  themselves – more truly adopting the consumerization trend  to have control over your environment without having to request new services from an IT team, or install the application on each new device.

Podio have built a platform that offers a vision of that workspace: allowing users to collaborate with data, select pre-defined applications, or take those very applications and customise them. All within a structure that keeps that data together and available to their team who may, or may not be part of the same organisation. From any device with a browser and an internet connection.

It is true to say that the focus of the applications available – in the main apps focus on Project Management, Customer Relationships, Team Building, Sales tracking and invoicing. Some may bemoan the lack of fancy photo-retouching  featurettes – however for the SMB/SME space the ability to offer and customise business  processes cheaply and easily on the business user’s own terms is more compelling than being given a standard stock environment that will be forever unchanging.

 

The End Of Desktops As We Know Them?

Citrix’s acquisition of Podio’s can be seen as an extension of the desire to enhance their Cloud platform – not only orchestrating access to SaaS & Web, but delivering it as well. More than simply A N Other Portal, or a MS Sharepoint clone. But, can it replace your desktop completely?

There are services Podio doesn’t deliver: the tea, for example. There is the option for creating apps and including work-flow, there is a still a need for integration with an email provider service for instance. For sure, complex spreadsheets can be managed but they still need a spreadsheet application to manipulate them.  It is reasonable to say “traditional” desktop environments are still going to be necessary to provide support for applications not yet truly web enabled.  However, quite often the reason the data is in an Excel spreadsheet is that there was no viable way to for users to manipulate the data without resorting to a specific application or writing their own code. Self created/added application environments can change this.

Is it a viable corporate service? There are service plan and backup/restore options – although wider adoption may need a more robust facility than ” reasonably attempt to achieve the highest possible availability and shortest possible access time“.  It is likely that with the backing of Citrix this will change. Citrix have already showed willing to invest in the SME market with their purchase of Kaviza to create VDI-in-a-box.

However, Podio focused on managing the delivery platform quite closely, to the point that Podio’s terms and conditions explicitly deny reselling of the service. There has been discontent within Citrix’s reseller channel at Citrix’s change in their solution partner rules and how Citrix are engaging with customers. To truly engage with the SME will Citrix continue with Podio’s direct selling model?

When I last spoke about Podio I asked “where can it go?… ” and speculated that ” the people at Podio would likely want the answer to be ‘..to be an all powerful and popular and make them a fortune’.  While the service has grown dramatically in a year –  all powerful? Popular?

Maybe not today;  maybe not tomorrow, but with the Citrix acquisition it could well be soon and for the rest of your life.

And if it doesn’t work out… well, they’ll always have Copenhagen.

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Andrew Wood (144 Posts)

Andrew is a Director of Gilwood CS Ltd, based in the North East of England, which specialises in delivering and optimising server and application virtualisation solutions. With 12 years of experience in developing architectures that deliver server based computing implementations from small-medium size business to global enterprise solutions, his role involves examining emerging technology trends, vendor strategies, development and integration issues, and management best practices.

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4 comments for “Citrix Acquires Podio – Forget Desktops, Users – Build Your Own Apps

  1. April 14, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    As much as I like Podio, and can understand why Citrix has chosen to acquire it, at the same time I think that Citrix has created a problem for itself here.

    Before Podio, Citrix has a very clear path towards creating a viable virtual workplace built around the Citrix Receiver and NetScaler Cloud Gateway. Establishing the Receiver as the point of integration for VDI desktops, published applications, webpages, and most recently FileShare aligns very well with the way that Citrix is customers have been working with Citrix technology for years. Cloud Gateway offers a means of integrating SaaS and cloud apps into this next. Now though it has Podio, and Podio has its own virtual workplace for Podio apps. Connecting to the Podio virtual workplace via Citrix Receiver and/or Cloud Gateway is trivial, but the Podio workplace presents a very different application experience to the Receiver and initial impressions suggest that seamless integration is going to take a lot of work.

    For the moment, it looks as if VMware would have an easy job of integrating audio into Horizon that Citrix would working with Receiver and Cloud Gateway. VMware has previously suggested Horizon as a means of delivering a single point of access to Windows, SaaS and cloud apps, with a clear message that VMware considered offering XenApp hosted apps through Horizon as an important service. It would not take much for VMware to provide direct integration to Podio apps as well. Clearly Citrix is not going to relish the idea that its customers might turn to VMware as an easier path to the virtual workplace than using Citrix Receiver and NetScaler Cloud Gateway.

    Given that, perhaps now is a good time for Centrix to start talking to Citrix about how Workplace iQ might accelerate Citrix’s vision for the virtual workplace.

  2. Andrew Wood
    April 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    I see where you’re coming from Simon – however I see more sense in not having a solution stack that is essentially linear.

    With Receiver/Desktop (whatever flavour)/FileShare position you’ve methods of presenting your corporate users with a view of their corporate workspace across devices. Canny: Citrix have been doing that for years and there is a small but growing competition to that.

    However, that model relies on you wanting/needing to present an application environment. For many (especially in the SME/workgroup space) that’s not what they need – what they need is to share information across platforms and devices.

    This poses three problems:

    a) How do you deploy the receiver if the end user doesn’t have access to manage their local environment. This can be nasty and is/will trip up vendors

    b) why do you have to wrap those applications in their own workspace environment?

    c) how you customise that application quickly and focus on sharing the information?

    There are a number of environments like Podio – having used Podio I think its one of the better ones (if the best so far). So this gives Citrix (and partners) an option to give receiver less collaboration (wrapping this service into Receiver will kill it imo). It’s Also an option to engage with organisations that may not see a need for VDI, but could utilise this, could utilise go-to-meeting, go-to-mypc – consider managing users using cloud gatewayesque services.

    Horizon would (in theory) remove the need to have a client, a receiver … with an HTML 5 client? Ericom have an HTML 5 client now via AccessNow: why is vmware taking so long? More importantly, I don’t think such a service addresses the issues and needs of the users who are using the likes of Podio

    But I’m with you on the similarities of Centrix’s Worksapce IQ and Citrix’s NetScaler Cloud Gateway. I think the vision and install base of Workspace is more mature and likely there could be a speedier progression if the two combined. But there’s also little to prevent, say, Quest or RES from doing the same thing: the workspace offering would compliment both of those companies’ management portfolios. Or AppSense, of course, there are already close links between AppSense and Centrix and linking personalisation and application control across platforms would make an interesting mash up.

  3. Michael Gold
    April 25, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    There’s no way my company’s going to do anything important with Podio in anywhere near Podio’s current form, because a) anything really important can’t be stored unencrypted in a public cloud and b) Microsoft Office and PDF are de facto standards for work-in-process, work in finished form, and sharing/collaboration with partner companies. I’m looking at DropBox and Yammer/OneDrum and like that, and they have their own problems but at least they respect the realities of a) and b).

    Get rid of desktops? Like, not only migrate everyday practice to the public cloud but /also/ manage a private cloud to handle the secure stuff? And train the users to understand the difference? And maintain two separate backup systems? This is better than a collection of desktops? Virtualization is not a cure for cancer.

  4. Andrew Wood
    April 26, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    I can see where you’re coming from, and I can understand a reticence.

    What I think should be considered here is – “what are you delivering the desktop for?”. For many organisations the desktop is a commodity item, they can go out and buy a laptop/PC from store and then plug it in and pretty much go.

    Why then pay for a virtual desktop service?

    That thing, that workspace is useless in isolation, it’s like a bat without a ball. And do you know what – it’s not even the applications that are important, it’s the data, the content that you create and ultimately share and collaborate with.

    Podio isn’t the only on-line collaboration site. Where it is interesting is in its offering to create a means of creating views of data and applications that can be shared and worked through with disparate teams via a browser, regardless of operating system or device by non-technical people.

    Office and PDF are defacto standards because people are used to sticking stuff in a spreadsheet or a document and passing that around. If we’re honest, those are rubbish formats for some forms of information and cumbersome to collaborate with. It can rubbish to version control, it has a rubbish inherent workflow in it. It can often get stuck in a system, or lost track of.

    There’s no way your company can use Podio because its unencrypted – but yammer and dropbox are fine? Maybe you need to look at the data policies again? If you want services with greater security have you looked at the likes of Oxygen or TeamDrive? What’s to say Podio has to stay in the cloud?

    Is this a call to migrate away from desktops? For sure if you want to take it that way: fill your boots.

    The intention (and I know, I intended it) was to consider the position of the user – they don’t care about desktops, they care about using their data and increasingly sharing their data: why do you need a hosted desktop to do that, and is that the best tool?

    I think Podio offers an insight into where collaboration and especially mobile working can lead for a lot of users,
    especially in the SMB space.

    You’ve valid points on secure vs non-secure data, but if we’re being honest and no-one is looking, between you and me, users rarely care. What I do know is – make it complicated, and they’ll ignore it and do it as easily as they can.

    Podio better than a collection of desktops? If I wanted to collaborate with a team of people on a project and allow them access a set of data for our particular project, maybe create a new project and have multiple projects on the go, collate budgets, review information, set tasks, work on design briefs.. do a job.. Podio offers a *way* better option than standing up a load of desktops with excel, word and outlook on them. For cheaper. Sure, maybe someone needs to bring that info together in a word document to send to the printers – but I say again, *way better*.

    Yes, there’s a data security issue for some environments, yes backups are in your own hands, yes it might not fit trying to manipulate a 3D image of a new jet engine – but again, maybe not today..

    But, you’ve a different opinion, and you’re entitled to that.

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