Citrix CEO hails 'free' apps as way forward

We're givin' it away, says Mark Templeton.

Citrix's decision to give many of its important applications away for free makes sense in an era where business technology is becoming increasingly 'consumerised', company CEO Mark Templeton has said at his company's showcase iForum event in Edinburgh.

On the day when Citrix's new 'Dazzle' Windows app-serving web 'storefront' officially became available as a free download, Templeton was in reflective mood while claiming not to be fazed by an IT spending downturn.

"Last year it was like Driving Miss Daisy," said Templeton of the easier times of recent memory. "Now we're in a whole new movie. We are busy trying to avoid becoming like the dinosaurs." he added after reeling off a list of formidable tech companies that had once competed with IBM but were now barely remembered.

Part of Citrix's recent strategy for avoiding the same fate was to offer free applications that allowed enterprises to add useful services to the core elements from which the company could continue to charge for, such as NetScaler, Citrix's cloud-oriented C3, and application support and consulting, he said.

Free, in this instance, means Citrix Receiver, a lightweight client for receiving virtualised applications across multiple platforms such as the PC and the iPhone, the company's virtualisation client, XenClient, as well as its Techworld.com - Citrix makes XenServer free, the XenCenter management console, and now Dazzle.

The "dead idea" of standalone PC computing and the technology model it represented was a mental drag that would in time be swept away by a different model of self-service, on-demand computing.

"This is the first era that won't be named after a technology," he said. "We think there is an epic battle," he said, citing sheer inertia as the enemy of new thinking. "Inertia is low-risk [but only] in the short term."

Templeton was speaking to an iForum audience thinned from last year's attendance at the same event by a year of withering recession in the financial sector, a market segment that has generated healthy sales for Citrix's software in the past.

Though short on specifically new announcements, the company did headline the release of XenServer 5.5. Templeton promised that the next version of the XenClient would appear at an unspecified point later this year.

The company confirmed that it plans to abandon its regional iForum events held for the last decade in regional centres such as Edinburgh, holding instead a pan-European event in Berlin in October 2010 under the US 'Synergy' banner.

Such an event will not only be a cheaper one, but demonstrate the extent to which the centre of gravity in spending is now moving away from once well-moneyed sectors such as banking.

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