Tech pioneer Ed Iacobucci dead at 59; co-founded Citrix, helped lead IBM’s early PC efforts

Ed Iacobucci, who helped build IBM’s (s ibm) nascent PC business into a powerhouse in the 1980s before co-founding Citrix (s ctrx), passed away Friday at 59 of pancreatic cancer. Most recently, Iacobucci was chairman of Virtualworks, the company that announced his passing.

From his perch at IBM’s Boca Raton location, Iacobucci helped create the early PC business with his work on both IBM DOS and then the OS/2 operating system. The latter was to be the successor to Microsoft(s msft) Windows, in fact “a better Windows than Windows” was its tagline. That saga alone, and the intrigue between partners Microsoft and IBM, is worth a mini-series of its own.

Ed and Nancy Iacobucci in Aspen in 2013.

Ed and Nancy Iacobucci in Aspen in 2013.


In 1989, Ed left IBM to start up Citrix in order to build on his vision of server-based computing, drafting a five-year joint development deal to put Citrix multiuser technologies into Microsoft Windows NT Server.  He retired as Citrix chairman in 2000. Nine years later, he founded Virtualworks, also in Boca Raton, to take on the problem of corporate “data sprawl.”

In a statement, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton said: “Ed’s spirit of entrepreneurship, creativity, passion and persistence will always remain at the core of Citrix. We are proud to carry his wondrous torch forward.”

Reached via email, Templeton said he spoke with Ed recently:

“I told him how crazy I thought he was back in 1995 just after I joined Citrix. We laughed about him telling me ‘Citrix is a giant, just in a tiny body.’ I told him I wanted to drink whatever Koolaid he was drinking … We had fun naming MetaFrame after he negotiated our historic partnership with Microsoft. I wanted to keep WinFrame branding but he had a bigger idea that our new product would operate at the Meta-tier – above all Windows apps. So, we put the two ideas in a blender and out came MetaFrame.

He was the definition of persistence. He was an optimist, visionary and always dreamed ahead. He never gave up until God called him – the only one who could override his determination.”

Ed’s Facebook (s fb) page is filled with tributes from friends and colleagues. One, Blake Stowell, now an executive at Adobe Systems wrote:

“Ed was a great man and a rare individual who could deal with the largest of executive egos or relate right down to the smallest worker in the trenches. He was a great example of how to treat people. I count it a pleasure to have worked with him and to have known him.”

I knew Ed for years but our contact over the last decade was via Facebook. What I remember about him at Citrix was that he was unfailingly available to a reporter with dumb questions about computer OSes and terminal services. Or any other topic.

The tech world has lost a great visionary but more importantly, we all lost a great guy.

VirtualWorks posted Ed’s bio here. Check out the video below to see Ed talk about his interview at for the Microsoft job he passed up to launch Citrix.


This report was updated at 5:01 p.m. PDT with Mark Templeton’s comment.