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?
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 andcustomise 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.
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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