Venture capitalist Rich Wong of Accel Partners said he wasn’t surprised by VMware’s move to acquire Accel portfolio company AirWatch — a move VentureBeat covered earlier today.
AirWatch provides a number of mobile security features for enterprises, and, as Wong explained, it’s pretty clear that businesses will need to invest in secure device management going forward.
Other top IT vendors have made similar acquisitions lately to help businesses control which applications and data sets their employees can access on their mobile devices. IBM bought Fiberlink, and Citrix bought Zenprise for “$350-ish” million, Wong said in an interview with VentureBeat.
“AirWatch was the clear leader of that trend,” Wong said. “Everybody knew them. We obviously tried to invest in them for many years, actually, because of exactly that.”
The fact that VMware was willing to ante up $1.54 billion for AirWatch, which Accel backed last year, shows how far mobile has become for technology vendors focusing on business, Wong said. He said he has watched mobile ads, mobile gaming, and even mobile-based taxi services catch on and attract large deals — and now there’s more conclusive evidence of a shift toward mobile being a key area for businesses to spend money on.
Looking out a bit, Wong sees a few other key areas where businesses might be interested in strengthening the way their employees use mobile devices.
That’s probably not surprising given how much Wong focuses on mobile-oriented startups. He’s previously invested in mobile-oriented companies such as game developer Rovio, advertising company AdMob, and stealthy mobile startup Nextbit.
Next up, Wong thinks companies might well seek to make their employees as productive as possible on their mobile phones. For that, more efficient typing systems could be good. Wong cited in particular Accel portfolio company SwiftKey, which can predict user input.
Applications for creating and collaborating on documents could become still more popular, as the rise of companies like EverNote and Box have shown, Wong said. Mobile-first business analytics software could fall under that label, as could tools for observing how people engage with web content on their mobile devices, he said.
“The tools we will ultimately be using to make our lives easier as we move more and more to tablets and smartphones is not just going to be Microsoft Word for the iPad,” Wong said. “It’s not just going to be Excel for the iPhone. There are going to be new forms of productivity applications that, until you use them, you couldn’t have imagined them before.”
And, yes, additional mobile security could become even more important, too, Wong said. Devices can bear both precious personal information and companies’ sensitive private data.
And all of those hot spots mean Wong won’t need to pursue a new megatrend and ditch his profile as a mobile-focused investor. He should be set for a while.
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