Citrix's Edward Iacobucci on thin-client computing

For Citrix Systems, 1997 was a tumultuous year. In February 1997, the software company feared annihilation in the multi- user Windows business at the hands of Microsoft. Weeks later, Citrix had a licensing and development deal with Microsoft. In November it launched pICAsso, server software that will let legacy PCs and non-Windows desktops have access to Windows applications. Last month, the company announced revenues were up 176 per cent. IDG's Bob Trott talked to Citrix's founder and chairman Edward Iacobucci about the company's past and futureIDG: Citrix started 1997 warning of Microsoft's imminent move into the multiuser Windows arena, and ended the year with a strong relationship. Does Citrix have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft?

Iacobucci: That is a little strong. Microsoft and Citrix have a history. The principals at Citrix have been working with Microsoft for a long, long time.

I didn't view what happened in February as a statement of war, it was more of an introspective analysis of the different requirements Microsoft had on their own system products. I wouldn't say we were nearly at war.

I would say we had some interesting times, a lot of discussion that was cordial and business-like, and we were able to resolve things with level heads. That's what customers want us to do and expect us to do, as well as our invest- ors. I am not a big believer in the notion that our objective is to bash Microsoft over the head.

There's a lot of room for smart people to do business together.

Even with a company as big as Microsoft?

There are always areas where you can compete, and areas where you cooperate. You can't be somewhere, in some place, and not be on Microsoft's radar screen.

What's the current state of the network computer [NC]?

Just the fact that it exists helps Citrix signifi- cantly in how we evangelise solutions. It gave [thin-client computing] credibility . . . [but] it has not been a very large component of the business.

Windows application services for NCs is an interesting segment.

We are looking forward to that space, that additional market. When it comes, we'll be there.

So, the future of thin-client technologies is bright?

The core of our strategies is to find a way to define an architecture that allows a broad range of devices and clients to have the same type of application support.

You take an app that an IT manager wants to deploy, and there should be independent requirements that run that application . . .

The basic idea is to be able to run a Windows application on anything that supports ICA [Independent Computing Architecture, Citrix's protocol for thin clients]. That list is pretty long and growing every day; the real market for what we do is yet to come.

Going forward, what's on customers' minds?

Cost-of-ownership debates -- where the rubber meets the road -- are the issues we talk about and are the issues being debated by IT managers whose jobs are on the line. The overall economic trends, globally, have been interesting for technology.

The bullish economy that's been evident for a numbers of years has kept [technology companies] very hot, and technology is being absorbed at a tremendous rate.

Depending on how the next year or so goes, a broad-based slowdown will fuel a lot more discussion about [total cost of ownership].

Is Citrix braced for that scenario?

We believe that in our position, while we wouldn't want to see an economic downturn by any stretch of the imagination, we [Citrix] would become very important. The soft spot in the economy is that we're seeing a more rapid reassessment of how dollars are spent within enterprises.