(Update, December 7: VMware CMO Robin Matlock has reached out with a comment; scroll to the end to read it.)
VMworld 2017 may have been three months ago, and the VMworld 2018 dates have already been announced (August 26-30), but there’s still an important idea that I know a lot of people in our space have thought about: VMware should create a dedicated end user computing conference.
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There were some dark years, where desktop virtualization and mobility felt like an afterthought at VMworld, but the last few years have had plenty of EUC content, and we’ve been impressed. (Just listen to Gabe and me gush on our VMworld 2017 podcast.) Still, we’ve always known that only 10–20% of VMworld content and attendees are in our area.
At the same time, AirWatch Connect was the premier enterprise mobility event, both before and after the acquisition. There was simply no other place where you could go and be surrounded by so many people focused so much on EMM.
For 2017, AirWatch Connect was retired and rolled into VMworld, and the experience just didn’t match up. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great VMworld for EUC, but there were some problems.
The “mobility zone” in the VMworld expo hall was far smaller than the old AirWatch Connect show floor, with significantly-fewer mobile sponsors. And since VMworld is so big, the former AirWatch connect attendees got diluted into the crowd, just like EUC attendees always have been. As a result, mobile and EUC attendees had a harder time finding peers and experts and had fewer sponsors to talk to; likewise, sponsors had a harder time finding potential customers. From a mobile perspective, it just wasn’t as useful as Connect was. I even heard that some past Connect attendees had trouble getting their company let them attend VMworld, since it wasn’t a dedicated mobility event.
Also important to note, at VMworld 2017, the 4000-seat room where Shawn Bass and Sumit Dhawan gave the EUC super session was overflowing. VMware clearly has a huge potential audience for the mobility, desktop virtualization, and end user computing content.
Time for another approach
Since so many people miss AirWatch Connect and VMware’s EUC business is doing so well, it’s time for them to create a new event dedicated to mobility, identity, desktop virtualization, Workspace One, desktop management, and other EUC topics. This would do a much better job of serving the needs of attendees, sponsors, and not to mention VMware itself. (And I think we all prefer shows that are at a slightly smaller scale. Who needs to spend all their time walking through an enormous show floor while representatives from companies that aren’t in your space jump out and aggressively try to scan your badge?)
After years of being involved in BriForum (which was admittedly two orders of magnitude smaller than VMworld), I know firsthand what a huge task it would be create a brand new event in only 9 months, especially since the 2018 planning probably started a while ago.
Short of having an entirely separate show, VMware could do a better job of dividing up the expo hall, perhaps putting EUC vendors in a separate room or building; they could make sure that the EUC super session gets a better room; and they could have more social events dedicated to EUC. Another suggestion I heard is to give attendees different colored lanyards based on their area of interest. (Maybe next year I’ll wear a shirt that says “Let’s talk mobility and EUC!”)
Since VMworld 2017, I’ve talked about these issues with plenty of attendees, sponsors, and even VMware employees, and I know that many people share these feelings. We’ve all been to a lot of shows, and we know what we like and don’t like.
I can appreciate how much time and money it takes to put on a good event, but that’s all the more reason for VMware to make sure that the community is getting the best possible value out of VMworld. Respectfully, I suggest: VMware, please rethink your end user computing event plans for 2018.
Update, December 7
The CMO of VMware, Robin Matlock, reached out with a statement. Here it is, in full:
"Hi Jack, just wanted to chime in here with a VMware perspective. I serve as the company’s CMO and love that we’re engaging on this topic. We love to see this kind of excitement for our End-User Computing vision and solutions, and we’re glad to hear you had a great experience at this year’s VMworld. From standing-room-only during the EUC showcase keynote, to 60 EUC breakout sessions, 70+ Hands-On Lab modules and 10+ demo stations, we were also pleased to see so much audience enthusiasm around the Digital Workspace at VMworld 2017. You can rest assured that EUC’s presence—both in content and the number of attendees—at VMworld will only grow in the years to come.
"Thanks for your feedback on areas of improvement for the EUC experience @ VMworld. We are in the midst, as you mention, of digesting feedback and inputs from our customers and partners as we plan for VMworld 2018 so this post is timely. Can’t wait to share what we have planned for 2018 at VMworld and beyond, including new online and in-person events designed specifically for our mobility-minded customers. We encourage folks to follow our EUC blog at blogs.vmware.com/EUC for the latest updates. Thanks again for the feedback."