Citrix Acquisition Of Podio Signals SaaS Shift

Citrix's acquisition of Podio may signal a larger shift in the SaaS productivity world. Will the SaaS market start competing on levels of integration and differentiation?

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In the SaaS world, the productivity market is a land of opportunity. The land grab, arguably started by the Google Apps phenomena, has disrupted an otherwise stale environment of traditional software productivity suites. Now that the advantages of the cloud world have been fully exploited, it's anyone's game to scoop up as many cloud-clamoring customers as possible.

Case in point, Citrix's latest acquisition of Podio. Citrix, which has traditionally focused on virutalization, has now acquired a company with a sizable cloud application portfolio. It's a smart move, since virtualization and SaaS tend to go together, but more importantly, it complements and completes Citrix's GoTo-portfolio.

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So what? IBM has SaaS in its arsenal with LotusLive, Microsoft has Office 365 and Zoho offers an expansive suite on par with Podio. How does the marketplace compete? Where can vendors and partners truly make the most money? It's not on functionality alone, but rather differentiation. Customers want SaaS packages that suit their needs perfectly. The cloud world allows that level of flexibility.

So it comes down to use case. For example, LotusLive offers its own documents suite like Google Apps, but IBM heavily touts its expansive integration with 3rd party apps from ISVs. If vendor lock-in is a worry, LotusLive offers that level of freedom. But for some, a complete integration is preferable. Office 365 looks to fill that fully integrated experience, offering everything from documents to unified communications and Dynamics CRM integration, all inside one package. That might make Office 365 popular, but it may not necessarily be the cheapest.

Google's attitude, on the other hand, seems to be laissez-faire. The absence of a completely native CRM module is telling about Google's sentiment towards the product: It's content to let ISVs take up the slack. In some cases, that creates interesting relationships where rivals like Zoho provide CRM of integration for Google Apps, which can simultaneously entices customers to make the next jump to Zoho's platform completely.

What does Citrix see in Podio that truly differentiates? In this case, collaboration seems to be key, since Podio plays up its social communication integration, which fiercely focuses on the ubiquity of information from browser to mobile device. Podio, in addition to integrated CRM, also hosts an ISV app store. Considering Citrix is a friend to the open source community, this level of openness fits Citrix like a glove – not to mention, Podio integrates with Google Docs. For Citrix, the Podio strategy may be to offer the most flexible solution possible, which also offers the most native app connectivity possible. That's a considerable differentiator to have, especially when it's so easy to implement in a one-stop-shop.

Last, but not least, Citrix's acquisition of Podio seems to affirm the eventually of vertically-interated vendor clouds. Citrix now holds all the major pieces for a major cloud ecosystem, from infrastructure backbone to end-user software. As Citrix grows, expect many of its virutalization-focused VARs to reshape their business structure into managed services. It's not the first time we've seen this cloud shift from vendors, and Citrix will certainly not be the last.

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