AppSense gets adult supervision, care of LANDESK

LANDESK isn't a flashy company, but buying AppSense is a brilliant move.

Yesterday LANDESK announced they’re buying AppSense. This is great news.

LANDESK has been around forever. Like 30+ years. I remember them from the 90s doing asset management and software distribution, and that’s pretty much what they still do today. They’ve evolved with the times and now call it “Unified Endpoint Management,” as they also manage mobile devices, they do security management, audits, and compliance. To be honest when I found out they were buying AppSense, my first thought was that they had to already products that do what AppSense does, but it turns out, they don’t. (They dance around each other, but there are no real direct overlaps.) That’s why this is such a good fit.

I’ve always liked AppSense, even after they kicked me out of their party at VMworld 2013 because they didn’t like an article I wrote about them. (In their defense, they did allow me to finish my beer before escorting me to the door.) I mention this not to sling mud, but because it represents the epitome of the dark phase that AppSense went through.

Throughout the 2000s, things at AppSense were going well. They were a well-liked company, they had a lot of success, their products worked well, and everything was great.

But things started to fall apart around 2012 or so. They bought a mobility company and lost their focus on desktops (and actual customers) and started chasing the mobile thing (a crowded and unproven market). They moved their headquarters to Silicon Valley. They tried to go public. They opened a very expensive and showy office in Battery Park in NYC. Their founder was sued by his ex-wife in a very public divorce where the courts found that he was dishonest and cheated her out of millions of dollars. Sales reps were given huge quotas, sales ranks swelled, hiring standards fell, and shady shenanigans became weekly stories. Product quality slipped. Employees left. They fired their CEO and then tried to cover it up. It was crazy.

Fortunately they got their shit together by 2014 before they completely drove themselves out of business. They brought in a new CEO (Scott Arnold) who cut all the bullshit and focused on product quality. They refocused on their desktop suite of products, again both in terms of quality and features. They introduced new products that related to their existing products rather than random Wall Street-influenced bets. The re-invited me to their VMworld party. (Which, if you think being kicked out of a party is awkward, imagine how it is the following year. I had never heard more, “Oh Brian? So good to see you! Thank you for coming. Can we take a picture? Thank you for coming. Let us get you a beer. Do you want to talk to a customer? Thank you for coming.” :)

Seriously, no hard feelings. It’s like when someone you’ve known for a long time struggles with an addiction, and you know they’re not in control and they’re not being themselves, and you still love them, but also you sometimes ignore their calls and turn off your lights and hide behind your couch when they come to your door.

So by 2014, 2015, things are looking up for AppSense. Even throughout their dark days, AppSense still had products that people wanted, and (most) customers still liked them. The problem was they were a damaged brand. Recently they’ve been like your loved one who had some addiction-fueled years awhile back, and they’re doing better now, but when people ask how they’re doing, you say, “Good” while gritting your teeth just hoping that they can stay on the wagon.

This is why I like LANDESK so much.

Quick, name three facts about LANDESK? 1. They’ve been around forever. 2. They do desktop management. 3. Umm.. yeah. those first two are it. There are only two facts about LANDESK. No scandals. No drama. They’re not in the news. They’re just sitting around, existing, for 30 years, doing their thing, keeping their heads down.

This is what you want in a systems and security management vendor. They’re private. They’re big. They’re old. They're in the Magic Quadrant for desktop management. They’re not headquartered in Silicon Valley. You never heard of their CEO. They wear khakis. I assume they all drive 6-year old Camrys. This is what you want. They are boring. And boring is good. Boring is really, really good.

I talked to Steve Morton, LANDESK’s CMO, about the AppSense deal on Friday. (Yes, the amazing Steve Morton who used to be with Altiris and did their talk-show style keynotes which, to this day, are the best keynote presentations I have ever seen in 21 years in IT.) Steve talked about why they wanted to buy AppSense and how they see them fitting in.

First, there’s almost no product overlap between the two companies—yet their products are extremely complimentary. There’s opportunity for bundling and cross-selling, but at the end of the day, LANDESK will continue to offer products to help companies manage their end point devices, and AppSense will just slot right into that.

Second, the main AppSense developers are in Daresbury Park, in Manchester in the UK, and that’s where they’ll stay. In fact LANDESK plans to grow and invest in that office too.

Third, LANDESK also plans to grow and invest in AppSense. They really “get” that what AppSense is doing is not just about VDI or virtual desktops, rather, they’re about managing Windows endpoints—whether they’re physical or virtual—and that is a huge part of LANDESK’s current and future messaging. (Even AppSense’s more recent security push dovetails nicely into LANDESK’s strategy.

A few months ago, I wrote an article User Environment Management: Past, Present, and Future. Steve and I talked about that, and everything that’s in the “Future” section of that article is what LANDESK is planning to do moving forward.

So overall, this is a great deal. AppSense at its core is a great company. The employees I talked to about becoming part of LANDESK are excited about it. (Frankly for many of the same reasons I wrote about here.) LANDESK is excited about it. And I’m excited about it. Congratulations to both companies. Now let’s hurry up and continue to be boring! We have desktops to manage!

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