Microsoft snaps up Visio in $1.3 billion deal

Microsoft snaps up Visio in $1.3 billion deal

Microsoft took another company under its wing last week, buying visualisation software and network diagramming tools vendor Visio in a stock swap worth $1.3 billion.

Seattle-based Visio will become the Visio Division in Microsoft's Business Productivity Group, which is led by Bob Muglia.

Visio's enterprise-wide business diagramming and technical drawing software will be used in conjunction with Microsoft's business productivity applications, Office, and Windows-based networks to "improve the way knowledge workers present their ideas", Muglia said.

According to the companies, Visio will continue to operate within Microsoft's Business Productivity Group with no immediate changes in the short term. Visio will reportedly remain a separate but complementary product to the Microsoft Office family of business productivity applications.

The diagramming vendor has developed a strong brand and loyal following, particularly in Australia, where it has aggressively built up its local channel.

Visio uses the distribution services of Express Data and Tech Pacific, and its channel programs include the Visio Registered Developer Network (VRDN), an online resource offering developers a range of free training and support options, launched in July this year.

Angus Robertson, Visio Australia's managing director, was unavailable for comment because of travel commitments but a local spokesperson described the deal as a "vindication of Visio's strategy".

Jeremy Jaech, Visio's US-based president and chief executive officer, said the company is proud of the business it has built around diagramming software technologies. "As part of Microsoft, we plan to enhance the development and distribution of our innovative software to meet the needs of customers worldwide," he said.

Visio will accelerate and finish development of its Visio 2000 product.

Current versions of Visio Enterprise, however, provide a complete database management system, supporting both forward and reverse database engineering, as well as migration between management systems (including IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and Informix). Database development can be modelled logically, through relational disciplines and IDEF1X support, or through employing object-role modelling, officials said.

Visio's latest product, Visio Enterprise 5.0, provides IT professionals with a comprehensive suite of development tools for designing and managing enterprise-level information systems across network, database, and software development disciplines, officials said.

The product, which costs less than $US1000, may also aid in linking devices on a network via directory services, and may provide a competitive buffer against such efforts as the Jini initiative from Sun Microsystems.

Visio Enterprise allows users to map existing topology via its Network AutoDiscovery tool, which uses SNMP and a Ping-based technology to discover devices without interrupting the IP network. Using Network AutoDiscovery, users can quickly map their current networks into a device and connectivity database that can be supplemented with product-specific details, officials said.

Visio Enterprise 5.0 supports Microsoft Active Directory and Windows NT Domain structures as well as Novell Directory Services' logical tree structure development.

It also has a Dynamic Connector to facilitate link building between networked components.

In addition, the Visio Network Equipment library contains a collection of 14,000 vendor-specific network, database, software, and general business shapes that can be built from scratch or associated with the auto-discovered database, thereby producing an easily generated and manageable networking diagram.

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