With AirWatch, VMware gets phones and tablets and a toehold in Internet of Things

At the very least, VMware’s $1.5 billion buyout of AirWatch proves the company, famous for  its inside-the-data-center server virtualization focus, is serious about end users — as opposed to say, VM admins. AirWatch’s device management should help those end users keep their favorite devices without violating corporate compliance etc.

What the deal also gives VMware(s vmw) is a foot in the door in the growing Internet of Things, according to Sanjay Poonen, who heads up VMware’s end user computing unit.

He was quick to say that the desktop category — now under fire as more users make their tablets or smart phones their primary device — isn’t going away any time soon. “They are the devices of yesterday and today, phones are the devices of today and tomorrow and machines and sensors are the devices of tomorrow,” he noted. And AirWatch will help VMware bring those non-traditional endpoints that talk to each other into VMware’s orbit, but when it comes to these physical devices, this has to be done carefully as Stacey Higginbotham pointed out in her recent post on the changing security model of IoT.

With machine-to-machine wireless connectivity, it definitely has to be safety first. “You don’t want your car being a vulnerability, like Dick Cheney’s pacemaker,” Poonen said. (While still in office, U.S. Vice President Cheney had his doctors disconnect wireless connectivity to his pacemaker, fearing a possible terrorist hack.)


VMware's Sanjay Poonen

VMware’s Sanjay Poonen

Asked for a little more color on the IoT opportunity, VMWare’s Kit Colbert, CTO of End User Computing, said via email that, while AirWatch covers phones, tablets and some laptops, there is potential to expand it to include:

“connected cars, smartwatches, smart contacts (yes, Google is working on them!), Google Glass, home appliances like connected refrigerators, smart TVs, etc.  The point is that there will be a need to secure all these devices, as well as to orchestrate provisioning of applications and data to them.  This is exactly what AirWatch already does for phones and tablets and such today. It’s not a stretch to imagine extending it to all the connected devices out there – i.e. the Internet of Things.”

The Internet of Things is the next gold rush for IT companies from chip makers to enterprise software and hardware players like Oracle and IBM,  so stay tuned for a lot of IoT spin in the upcoming year.

The AirWatch acquisition is slated to close late in the first quarter.