AppSense quietly fires most senior execs, replaces their CEO, and decides to focus on mobile?!?

Have you heard of Scott Arnold? I hadn't either until a few months ago when I learned that he was the new CEO of AppSense.

Have you heard of Scott Arnold? I hadn't either until a few months ago when I learned that he was the new CEO of AppSense. No announcement from the company. No tweets. No PR calls. No blog posts. It was completely on the down-low. In fact the company refused to even confirm whether Scott was the only new employee (replacing Darron Antill). Apparently the powers controlling AppSense haven't yet grasped the concepts of social media and LinkedIn.

Based on web searches and talking to current and former employees over the past few months, it looks like practically the entire C-Suite at AppSense was replaced. New CEO replaced fired CEO. New CFO replaced fired CFO. New CMO replaced fired CMO. New SVP of Sales replaced fired SVP of Sales. Benny Tritsch? Fired. (No worries though as he landed at Bluecue Consulting with Nico Luedemann.) As far as I can tell the only people who survived are RAPsphere CEO Ravi Khatod in the position of SVP, Marketing, and Keith Turnbull as Chief Development Officer. (Fellow gin lover and friend-of-the-site Jon Rolls is still there too.)

So what happened? Even if you didn't hear the news, the story isn't new: Company takes a huge VC investment with hopes to go public. Scales hella fast. Don't hit sales targets. VC brings in their own execs who focus on cutting costs and streamlining. Rank-and-file employees don't love it. Pissant bloggers have something to write about at 11 at night.

Change in leadership. Change in strategy?

So far I'm on board with everything at AppSense. Sure it's crazy in today's world to try to slip in new execs on the DL, but whatever. Shit happens.

But what's really wild is that I'm hearing that AppSense is also changing their strategy. For the past fifteen years or so, AppSense focused on Windows desktop management (profile virtualization, etc. which they now call "DesktopNow"). Then last year they entered the EMM space by buying RAPsphere (since renamed "MobileNow") and have introduced other mobile-focused products like DataNow (for mobile file-syncing).

Now we've heard from several employees (current and ex) that AppSense is focusing their efforts on the mobile space and essentially putting the desktop products out to pasture. (In other words they'll just do basic maintenance on the desktop products, but the effort is on the mobile stuff.) The idea is that's where the money and the growth is.

This seems odd though. AppSense was one of the two primary vendors (along with RES Software) in the user profile virtualization space, and while Windows desktops might not be quite as important in another ten years as they are today, it seems crazy that they'd want to throw away that market to become one of fifty-something companies in the EMM space where everyone is fighting for the price bottom.

It's ironic that Harry Labana (former AppSense CTO) was fired (or "given a different role" or whatever they're calling it) for wanting to do all that crazy mobile stuff instead of focusing on their legacy desktop products, and now a year later this is exactly what the company is doing.

AppSense has been pretty big in our industry, so we'll definitely keep our eyes on them to see if they really throw away fifteen years of solid (though boring) products to enter the mobile chaos world.

As for you, what have you heard? Are you an AppSense partner, customer, or current or former employee? What's your take? What are you hearing?

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Fig 1. Plan B.

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I agree that it's not wise to lose focus on your core product and instead focus on a market that is saturated. It's tough times for a lot of companies, but is focussing on cutting cost's, streamlining and taking big risks the answer? I guess time will tell...


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Sounds like we definitely owe you all at bm.com an update. I'm now running the PM team for DesktopNow (the Windows desktop products) and we are as committed as ever to making them bigger and better.


The investment in EMM was what a successful vendor can afford to do in addition to their core product line - it was a diversification into new areas that expand our story of managing the "workspace" on every device.


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I don't really think AppSense have abandoned DesktopNow like you allude....they are still developing new features for this (I've just been hearing about some handy new features in the latest release), and I'm aware there's a lot of work going on redeveloping the UI too.


I heard a rumour a while back that Performance Manager was going to be discontinued by AppSense, but that hasn't happened either, it just happens to be a product that doesn't require a lot of changes, as it does what it is supposed to.


I agree that they are chasing a small part of a saturated market by attacking the mobile side, but I definitely don't think the core tools will be "put out to pasture" - they have a lot of customers and a lot of potential on the DesktopNow side.


Cheers,


JR


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Having spent three days listening to 3 different AppSense pitches last month (after the shuffle) in three different cities, I was left feeling that the company needed to get more focused SOMEHOW.


It just seems like too many products and features for the size of company they are.


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This blog further solidifies that RES Software blog post from earlier this year that AppSense and RES Software are moving in different directions. The landscape is changing and that's a good thing as change brings about more focus and drive.


blog.ressoftware.com/.../goodbye-appsense


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They were showing off their desktop stuff just last week at a TechTarget VDI event in Atlanta.


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Good news Jon that PM still exists for DesktopNow. If you're committed to making those products bigger and better than ever, what's the size of the team now versus four months ago?


The reality (or my reality, I guess) is that everything I'm hearing "on the record" does does not jive with what people are willing to say "off the record." Seriously I've never witnessed such a huge delta in seventeen years of following this space, so I'm really curious as to what's going on over there.


Too bad about the AppSense blog too. (http://blog.appsense.com/) They went from about two posts per week up through last May to now having just one post total over the past three months. What's the story there? The new execs don't believe in blogs or communicating strategy? Or is the company so busy being awesome that no one has time to blog? Or maybe everyone who used to write the blog was fired?


I'm telling you.. something just doesn't add up at AppSense now.


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As an Enterprise AppSense customer, I am keenly concerned about our existing investments future.  The desktop is not going anywhere anytime soon.....the gloom and doom of the PC is BS as it still is needed to drive revenue and productivity at each and every business.  None of our users are going to come into the office or sit at home and work 8 hour days from a mobile device...get real.  Yes, make room for the mobile environment, incorporate it, but it is NOT replacing desktops/laptops anytime soon, if ever.


Mobile is the result of people embracing technology 24/7.  A desktop/laptop is not the answer for all situations, enter the mobile devices to 'close' the gap, not replace desktops, maybe some laptop scenarios, but not many.


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@Brian


It was not an easy decision for me to choose to leave AppSense, but it was the right one for me at the time…and now about the strategy.


I think you are jumping at shoestrings of information based on rumors. I can share that when I was CTO and VP of products, I with the broader team were very clear about expanding the reach of user virtualization, by helping people think of it as a platform focused on solving the challenges of Enterprise Consumerization. When you view the world through that lens, it is obvious that a user focused approach needs to reach beyond just desktop use cases. That is a realistic customer centric focus vs. an incorrect bucket that people try to shoe horn one into called profile/personalization etc. I was keen to establish a strong blogging presence to help raise awareness and I think we did a good job. Just see the old AppSense website to compare and contrast. web.archive.org/.../appsense.com


Eventually we even got the green right! ☺


At the time, to start this expansion I pushed for free offerings via www.appsense.com/.../appsense-labs to help us think much more broadly about our user virtualization platform.


An outcome of this effort was DataNow.  I pushed the team hard to get this out of door as a differentiated offering focused on solving a data access problem as opposed to yet another file synch product trying to be your data store. Additionally, I really liked RAPsphere, because they took a SaaS approach only and had a really good product. That is largely thanks to their awesome team and CTO Ajay Arora, who I encouraged to show off what we had early at Citrix Synergy 2012. www.brianmadden.com/.../citrix-synergy-2012-video-a-first-look-at-appsense-rapsphere-mobile-app-management-and-app-wrapping.aspx


Today, I still believe AppSense MobileNow is the simplest and most capable mobile MAM solution on the market. Many still don’t appreciate this, as they are lost in the marketing noise of others. Just try it for free and be informed. http://mobile.appsense.com


Despite all of this, there was no, ‘we don’t care about DeskopNow products.’ That is just not accurate by any stretch of the imagination. There was a great team in place who worked on those core products who got limited love in the public domain but did the hard work of serving customers and cranking out releases and fixes with a focus on simplification.  There are ample releases that demonstrate that commitment. Hell, I still recall the conversations we had internally to bring back more focus to the awesome performance manager product as part of the DesktopNow suite. Looks like that’s happened also! www.appsense.com/.../performance-manager


Now I have no visibility into the recent changes, but I can’t imagine that the Desktop products will not be a critical component of solving customer Enterprise Consumerization problems with a rich user virtualization platform. It’s the obvious evolution of this space for it to grow.


Anyway next time you decide to write something at 11 at night, do check with more reliable sources for better information that may actually be shared publicly. Perhaps even over some Gin. ☺


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Further, when there is uncertainty surrounding a product, like when VMware changed its licensing model, Microsoft, Citrix and other vendors were there with FUD to lure and entice their customers away.  Do allow an atmosphere of uncertainty to overcome your product stack.  Make bold statements of supporting existing products, have account reps reach out to all your accounts and reaffirm AppSense's commitment to the core product line.


I also have the RES Software product as well.  I will stop adding to my AppSense licenses and start buy more RES if there is a hint of AppSense depreciating the current product line.


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@Harry, thanks for sharing your thoughts, but everything I'm talking about is since Scott Arnold came on board which is after your time at AppSense. I still stand behind everything I wrote. I talked to several people about this, some customers, some employees (current and former) and the "off the record" stories are all the same.


@Jon, btw, why were you CTO and now you're just a VP of PM? Did you get demoted?


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We've been an Appsense customer since the beginning and I've never been a fan of their product and support.  Their products look and sounds good on paper but a nightmare to support.  Constant bugs, different hooks that didn't capture settings, and the up keep to maintain their software is not only a resource drain on us but I'm sure on their part it's not very profitable to sell software that needs constant updating and maintainence to keep up with the Microsoft/Citrix world.


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@harry, BTW, to the question "Can I manage mobile app and data without managing the device"


from here http://mobile.appsense.com/


Apple just answered "NO" with iOS 7.


- Vittorio


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@Vittorio, the value prop will continue to evolve no doubt as Apple adds more capability. However simple SaaS mobile/MAM vendors IMO well positioned to take advantage and have less baggage to worry about. Will be fun to watch the innovation on all sides.


@Brian I'll leave the current day detective work to you.  


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Brian - Seriously. Surprised you wrote an article like this. I left AppSense recently, certainly after all this happened so I'll add some color. And to be clear, I didn't leave because of what was happening, I left because I got a great offer that I couldn't refuse elsewhere.


1. Sometimes change is necessary.


Sometimes the leadership that gets you to a certain point, isn't the leadership that takes you forward into the future. RES has had their issues in the past. And comparatively Microsoft has certainly had a number of leadership changes - some that were publicized and some that weren't (for some very good reasons) all to take the company forward to the next level. Plus plenty of companies have had leadership change over this year for a variety of reasons. Some publicized and some not.


2. AppSense is most certainly not "putting the desktop products to pasture"


The desktop isn't dead despite ridiculous industry rants. Scott would be stupid to de-invest from a product line that has accelerated the business so well...take a look at his credentials, he's not a stupid guy. Additionally Jon Rolls is a very capable leader with a very competent team that has an exciting vision to take forward. The desktop product suite is doing very well and Jon will do a great job forward.


And I don't know where this rumor of Performance Manager being deprecated comes from. I'm a huge fan of what it does for VDI and XenApp density.


In all, AppSense has a great future in desktop, mobile and data with some very cool products that frankly kick many of the big name's asses.  I'll echo Harry's comments. Trial the products for free. Tell me then that they aren't on the right path forward.


On with the gin and tonic.


Michael Kleef


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Well, I guess I can't defend myself against this in any way that I haven't already. I'll reiterate that I stand behind this article 100%. I talked to A LOT of people about it over the past few months before writing it.


It's funny how every comment and tweet by someone associated with AppSense says that they're "surprised" or that I'm "wrong" or that I'm "attacking" AppSense, and every comment and tweet from people not working at AppSense is in support of what I wrote. I guess that's why my job sucks. Oh well. Good luck out there everyone.


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AppSense has built a great reputation and customer base by helping companies manage the complexities associated with delivering a productive desktop experience in an ever increasing heterogeneous environment.  Today, our customers face new and exciting opportunities to extend the corporate desktop to a rapidly expanding mobile workforce demanding the ability to work from anywhere in the world on endpoints they chose and manage. With thousands of customers and a decade of experience we are uniquely positioned to help our customers stay ahead of the next set of challenges and deliver the desktop of tomorrow. We have exciting things in store for our customers at AppSense…stay tuned…


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@Jon Kyle: AppSense products have always suffered from bad quality and bugs since v8. Anyone who has upgraded to a feature pack will tell you that. AppSense pushed us to upgrade to FR4 to get bug fixes. Environment Manager 8 FR4 'Sucks', stay well away. 2 service packs and x hot fixes shows the quality you can expect. Numbers must have suffered trying to sell this garbage and senior execs heads rolled.


I think that AppSense must see selling buggy software as profitable. Then they can get the licencing the services, support dollars and now they are pushing a TSM offing. You pay an extra 5% per user on top of gold so that your support tickets get traction. Why in the hell should I pay more because AppSense support is broken? TBH, I don’t think AppSense support has even been so bad. I have seen a decline over the past year, maybe good guys have left to save dollars. Scott Arnold, you should put a bullet in whoever runs support! To survive this line then they must be manipulating figures or seriously kissing butt.


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Umm @Simon I heard you got demoted from the PM spot and put back into Sales and replaced by Rolls who got demoted as one of the three non exec CTOs.


I smell internal BS.


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@Brian I smell a lot of BS. I’ve been digging for more information but people mostly are saying nothing. So I’ve broken down responses as Facts/Rumors/Opinion.  


Facts:


1. Looks like lots of heads have rolled or been demoted in the last few months. From a few months back: web.archive.org/.../management


2. Appears @Simon is no longer VP Product Management and Enterprise Technology. So I guess he also got demoted.


3. Sales in the US have lagged Europe- I know this first hand by sales management screwing partners and then blaming macro conditions for their actions.


4. Product takes a long time to sell and is complex to configure and expensive to maintain. This is true as other posters point out.


5. A number of people were fired a few weeks ago as Arnold began his McKinsey style cutting. I was pointed to a twitter account where employee goes ape *** with angry rant, so most of it probably should go into rumor section. http://twitter.com/cshaftland


Rumors:


1. Lots of people have said the Sales force in the Europe is much better than the US.


2. Lot of mistrust of former CEO about paying sales commissions and then changing the rules once deals were closed to squeeze more away from sales people. Some key people quit as a result.


3. Lot of sales pressure and unrealistic targets driven by IPO agenda, which is now dead.


4. *** [This is Brian. I removed this Point #4, but the rest of the post is unedited.]


5. Marketing was all screwed up and former CMO was weak so him and product marketing guy David Roussain got fired.  


6. Benny got fired because he hated working in Sales and the AppSense community thing never took off.


7. Some have commented that the only reason Brian believes AppSense are killing the desktop Windows products is because Benny probably told him and was always an internal Windows fan boy.


8. CDO did not like pace of CTO agenda and also didn’t like that CTO wanted a product led organization vs. an engineering led organization. Checked with contacts at Citrix, who mentioned CDO was burned when he lost control of XenDesktop to the CA product team and the responsibility was taken away from him, which is why he went to AppSense. To take control, CDO after CTO was gone, removed product managers and installed his own people, Rolls brought on based in CA reporting to him since formerly worked for him at Citrix.


9. CDO tried to bring in Rolls as a peer but didn’t get support, so CTO role was split into three CTOs. After product managers were removed, CTO office was also dismantled to enable CDO to control. So no more CTO to compete with that CDO can’t control.


10. Conflict between CDO and Mobile GM trying to build out own product and sales team in CA. CDO won that battle too, and Mobile GM was given marketing pacifier despite only having ever done sales. CDO now controls all products and development including CA. New marketing guy likely only to stay until his RAPsphere stock vests so he probably doesn’t care about playing politics with CDO.


Opinion:


I wanted to just ignore this thread but I was asked at work for opinion and decided to dig to get better answers.  It’s very hard to know what rumors are true and I am sure every company has internal crap that we never hear or care about. So:


1. I do agree with others, I don’t believe the desktop products are dead. There may be less focus going forward but I don’t think that is a bad thing. How resources internally are allocated to do that is irrelevant to me.


2. I want to hear more about their mobile plans. They have MAM and Data but with iOS 7, how much will this matter and how does this fit/compete with Citrix? This was something I challenged their former CMO on last year and his responses underlined why he deserved to get fired.


3. For a company as small as AppSense there seems to be poisonous culture that is being exposed in public now. There is something clearly very wrong and has been for a long time. Too many aholes and not enough leaders…


4. I tweeted a question at BriForum London-something like what’s new at AppSense this year? All I heard back was from an attendee that last year was about new ideas and this year they are showing actual progress. So what about new ideas that they will progress on next year? At the time I assumed we’ll know more soon, but after Brian’s post I feel as though the steam has come out of the engine.


5. I think the way this whole thing has been handled, even after this post is amateur night. It exudes arrogance when you don’t communicate change with your customers and dismiss the community as if it doesn’t matter. Simon’s response is so scripted above that is underlines Brian’s point, that these guys have no clue about social media. As other posters here have already started to do, customers will ask hard questions. So my recommendation at work has to be, proceed with extreme caution or look to move away.

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I love a good gossip. Although I have no facts and I have only heard rumors, I am certain of a couple of sayings apply to this matter.


1. Where there is smoke, there is fire.


2. Obscurity breeds more rumors (I made that up myself)


3, Honesty (transparency) is the best policy.


I wonder if it would be too late for AppSense to 'come clean', a.k.a go on the record as to what happened?


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Oh look, even Microsoft puts out a press release when the CEO is about to change...Duh!


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From a customer perspective, I never felt Appsense was a real tech company.  They had a good concept then the product delivered in certain conditions but it's a nightmare to support.  The Appsense was a 2 tier suite then became 3 tiers.  The result was just poorly designed client server communication and support tools was awful.  V9 has improved considerably but for the cost and frustration it's not worth it.


My advice to Appsense is, sell yourself off to Microsoft of Citrix.  Atleast they can take the product and improve it.  


Appsense EMM, this business of keeping track of user settings has got to be the most difficult and unreliable task.  In a user session, tons of changes are done and to be able to keep the delta and write it quickly in/out of a SQL DB must be challenging.  The minute Microsoft releases a patch, is when Appsense EM could break and stops watching.  


Good luck to Appsense.


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Looks like AppSense DesktopNow is in real trouble with this alleged patent infringement: scribd.com/.../Tranxition-v-AppSense


Is this why they defocus? Hope AppSense EULA indemnifies customers.


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Meh, that patent suit is more than a year old, and I feel like all these companies sue each other all the time. So this is nothing. I mean yeah, AppSense has a lot of issues to deal with, but this patent thing isn't one of them.


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