Many of you know Pierre Marmignon (@pmarmignon), creator of many free tools, owner of CitrixTools.Net, a Citrix CTP, and one of our speakers at BriForum London this coming May. (This is all in addition to his day job as the Citrix Department Manager at Overlap Groupe, a French systems integrator.)
For the past year or so, Pierre has been working on a project called "Virtual User Environment Manager," or "VUEM." Pierre's been talking about VUEM for a long time. In a July 2010 interview published on XenAppBlog.com, Pierre said that "Virtual User Environment Manager has been designed to provide a first level environment management (e.g., shortcuts creation, network drives mapping, network printers, registry stuff). The tool will be architectured around a SQL Database, an Admin console and, an agent."
When asked whether VUEM would compete with tools like Citrix User Profile Manager and Flex Profiles, Pierre said, "Well I like to say that UPM and Flex are managing the profile settings save / restore while VUEM will manage the environment. Basically it has been designed to be a perfect UPM / Flex companion, taking care of the environment management part which is for now missing in these two products."
After working on VUEM for a long time, it's getting really close to release. In fact he sent Gabe and I a beta version in January, (which we've enjoyed!), and the final version was just coming out now. And in fact on March 17 (about two weeks ago), Pierre gave a presentation about profile management and VUEM at the Citrix French Experts Community meeting. (This is like the Citrix User Group for France.) He tweeted, "VUEM presentation at Citrix French Experts Community today was a real success ! v1.1.6 was demoed on XenApp 6 & XenDesktop 5."
That was on Thursday. On Monday Pierre learned that RES Software had sent a letter to his employer, Overlap, demanding that he immediately stop the distribution of VUEM and pay 50,000 Euros for damages, with further penalties for each day the distribution does not stop.
The French Citrix community reacts
Having spent time with the French community over the years, I have a few dozen contacts there, and it didn't take long for them to start sharing their perspectives on this. No one wanted to speak on the record given (mostly to protect Pierre, but also so as not to incur the wrath of RES), but their stories were all basically the same:
They shared that one of the audience members who saw Pierre's presentation went back to RES and told them that Pierre was proud to show a tool that was free and "better than PowerFuse." (They were clear to point out that is not what Pierre said, but rather that's what was told to RES.)
They confirmed details of the letter that RES sent to Overlap.
The reason, they claimed, was that the contract between RES and Overlap states that it’s strictly prohibited for the partner to develop a competitive offering to a RES product.
But they also point out that Overlap is an integrator, not an ISV, and that Pierre developed VUEM alone and in his spare time. (And that there's no contract between Pierre and Overlap for that.) So really it seems that this letter is without merit since Overlap has nothing to do with VUEM.
And for this they are outraged.
Said one attendee, "Of course, we (The French Citrix Community) can’t accept that a company could attack the moral values of sharing, exchange, help and dedication who exists around the Citrix Expert Club and specially Pierre Marmignon."
Another attendee confirmed that even Citrix is upset with RES's behavior, and that they even sent an email to all the Citrix Expert Group attendees explaining what happened and to support Pierre.
What does RES have to say?
Of course there are always two sides to every story. I emailed a few contacts at RES, and they all referred me to Marc Zinnemers, their CFO.
Marc responded to my email immediately, providing the following statement:
As an innovative company, RES Software actively protects its intellectual property rights and business interests (including the interests of our partners). Thereto we are taking all necessary steps to stop infringements.
Unfortunately this statement actually raises more questions than it answers. For instance, the members of the French Citrix community are saying that the letter is more about the reseller contract between RES and Overlap, and whether Overlap is allowed to develop competitive products. But this response almost makes it seem like RES is accusing Pierre of taking their intellectual property. Maybe they're suggesting that he saw a road map and stole some ideas? Maybe they're suggesting that he copied the product? (Although having used both products, they are not the same thing so I don't know where that would come from.)
I emailed Marc back immediately to ask for clarification, but even though he answered my first email with a few minutes, my second email went unanswered for three days. I emailed him again yesterday, explaining that I wanted to understand RES's perspective on this, and asking again for them to provide more information, but again my email went unanswered.
Another community member I spoke with over the weekend said that RES was actually upset with Pierre because they felt that VUEM competes against RES Workspace Manager Express Edition.
Regardless, this seems like a very strange move for them, and it's too bad that RES would do this. (And now that they did, it's too bad that they're ignoring requests to explain themselves!)