SAP Ventures sinks cash into instant-on platform vendor

The ERP giant's venture capital arm is leading a $10 million funding round for DeviceVM

SAP's venture capital arm is leading a US$10 million investment round for DeviceVM, maker of Splashtop, an "'instant-on" platform aimed at mobile users, the companies announced Wednesday.

DeviceVM's software is already preinstalled on many laptops made by major manufacturers. The company is also eyeing the non-PC device market. It is working now to support Intel and Nokia's MeeGo OS, which will be used on tablets, smartphones, TVs and other devices.

The Linux-based Splashtop runs separately from a device's underlying OS and includes a number of applications, including a Firefox-based browser; music, photo and chat functionality; and Skype calling.

The company also offers a business-themed version of Splashtop that provides Office compatibility, Outlook integration and secure remote desktop access, without requiring users to launch Windows.

DeviceVM plans to use the SAP Ventures funding round to make new types of mobile devices more appealing to companies "by enabling IT to better support them within existing management and security policies," the startup's CEO, Mark Lee, said in a statement.

For SAP, the move represents another step in the company's emerging mobility strategy, which got a jumpstart through its pending acquisition of Sybase.

SAP Ventures' investment in DeviceVM comes at an opportune time, according to one industry observer.

"The idea that enterprise users would start using a non-traditional computer is getting people all tingly again. The last time this happened was when Microsoft went tablet crazy some years ago, and then, though not enterprise, there were the set-top box dreams of Sun, Oracle and WebTV," said Redmonk analyst Michael Coté. "The success of Apple and the passion around the platform is making people think we'll finally move beyond the desktop and laptop, so it makes companies like DeviceVM an interesting-looking 'where the hockey puck is going' investment."

The investment also positions SAP in the device-to-device communications market, said Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang via e-mail. "With so much proliferation and adoption, DeviceVM will play a key role in the management and security that enterprises require," Wang said. "Other synergies tie back to centralized IT management services and remote management coming back in vogue."

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