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After AirWatch-VMware deal, customers are in product support limbo

With VMware's deal to buy AirWatch closed, some AirWatch customers are unclear on what will become of the company's products and support.

With AirWatch now officially in the VMware fold, some AirWatch customers are questioning what will become of the products they've come to rely on.

The $1.54 billion acquisition officially closed late last month, with a rebranding of "AirWatch by VMware" unveiled at Mobile World Congress and a change in logos apparent all over AirWatch's website.

Between the acquisition in January and the official closing, both VMware Inc. and AirWatch have been mostly quiet about how each company's mobility software and services will change. There's reason for AirWatch customers to be excited -- but also nervous -- about the company's future.

"The future is all about mobility," said Norm Waslynchuk, IT director for Abell Pest Control in Toronto and AirWatch customer. "[When] you think about the AirWatch proposition and what it brings to the table here for managing the devices … it was a smart purchase by [VMware]."

It would be crazy for VMware to drastically change the model around.

Norm Waslynchuk, IT director, Abell Pest Control

Waslynchuk said he has had little direct interaction with AirWatch about its future since the acquisition.

"Of course I have concerns over what they're going to do to the product," Waslynchuk said. "We've invested quite a bit in AirWatch. … It would be crazy for VMware to drastically change the model around."

While the infusion of cash for AirWatch and the potential for expansion with that funding holds promise, VMware could replace excitement with worry if it fiddles with the product too much, said AirWatch customer Robert Debault, a systems analyst at a maintenance product distribution company in Texas.

"At this point, if [VMware leaves AirWatch] alone, it will be OK," he said. "If they try to integrate it into their other software, we may have some issues."

VMware did not provide comment by press time, but hints of integration with the company's enterprise mobility management portfolio have been made public.

AirWatch, VMware offer few integration details

Officials from both companies have said AirWatch customers should expect no changes in service and support, but didn't explain how the company would integrate with VMware when the deal closed.

VMware sent an email from End-User Computing General Manager Sanjay Poonen to customers the day after the transaction officially closed. The email was light on specifics for AirWatch integration, but Poonen said VMware's goal is to provide users with the ability to operate "seamlessly" between all endpoints.

AirWatch CEO John Marshall has stated that AirWatch's platform for different product and user deployments around mobile will be extended to a "broader end-user computing vision" to go deeper into desktops.

"Now we're thinking about how we tie together all these different components so that you can truly integrate across whatever device the user wants," he said.

Marshall also commented that AirWatch hasn't been a strong player in Asian and Latin American markets, something he hopes will turnaround now that it is part of VMware.

"We're going to be in a better position to support our partners and our customers around the world with the service, the support and go-to-market," he said.

AirWatch customers optimistic

Customers and partners have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the acquisition, according to AirWatch chairman Alan Dabbiere.

"VMware is a real technologists' technology company," he said. "We're getting tremendous efforts in mobile virtualization, which they're years ahead of everybody else on, combined with their desktop virtualization."

There's little customer overlap between the two companies, with not many AirWatch customers using Desktop as a Service or a virtualized desktop infrastructure, according to Dabbiere.

Waslynchuk uses VMware for virtualization at Abell, and said he has always been pleased with its products.

"It's very stable and very credible," he said of VMware. "There are a lot of techs who know the technology very well; that's why we use it."

The potential opportunity for AirWatch and VMware is big if they can extend support to older operating systems, including Unix, according to Debault.

"[AirWatch has] three-quarters of the pie covered," he said. "If they can cover the rest with VMware purchasing them, nobody will be able to touch them."

Dabbiere will head up a new operating board that oversees AirWatch and reports to VMware's CEO, Pat Gelsinger. AirWatch's 1,600 employees will still report to Marshall as part of VMware's end-user computing group.

Executive Editor Colin Steele contributed to this report.

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How should VMware integrate AirWatch's products into its EUC strategy?
The article raises a number of interesting questions about the impact of VMware’s acquisition of AirWatch and it would be useful to give a partner’s direct perspective on this change in the enterprise mobility market.

I agree with Alan Dabbiere’s comment that partners have been very positive about the news. At Matrix42, we are the largest partner by revenue contribution to AirWatch in Europe and recognized as one of the top three partners worldwide. We have been working closely with AirWatch to achieve a vision of intelligent and always-available workspaces, accessible via any device. VMware’s strengths in virtualization support and enhance this strategic initiative.

For Matrix42 and our 350+ joint customers with AirWatch, the key message has definitely been ‘business as usual’. From the on-going discussions that we have held with AirWatch and VMware, we have no concerns over product support, training etc., and customers will continue to work with the same high quality people as before.

Naturally, more detail as to specific product roadmaps and strategic direction are yet to emerge but the retention of key senior executives such as John Marshall give us confidence that we are witnessing the start of an exciting new chapter in the enterprise mobility market.

Additionally, we believe the acquisition will create a number of new opportunities for AirWatch and their business partners to leverage the resources, capabilities and solutions offered by VMware.