Thin-client stalwart Wyse Technology is undergoing a radical makeover. It is attempting to shake off its image as solely a supplier of cost-effective alternatives to PCs for workers who require a limited set of server-driven applications. Wyse is aiming to become a strategic partner, the kind of supplier whose products share the thinking of senior IT leaders.
Wyse's transformation began in 2004 when the original owners of the 23 year-old Silicon Valley company were introduced to Garnett and Helfrich Capital (GHC), a venture buyout company that specialises in acquiring respected companies that have stalled, refreshing them with new capital and a new strategy.
Wyse fitted GHC's purpose nicely. Although it was a respected market leader, its flat $175 million annual revenues were failing to grow in line with a thin-client market that, according to IDC, has been growing at 20% per year over the last 12 months. To recapture its momentum, Wyse needed more money and fresh blood, and Garnett & Helfrich have supplied both.
In April GHC paid $35 million for a 50% controlling interest in Wyse, having earlier participated in the replacement of 11 of Wyse's 14-strong senior management, and the recruitment of new CEO, John Kish. The former Oracle executive's brief is succinct: "I have to change this company very quickly. We are aiming to make revenues of $350 million in 2007, and $1 billion by 2009."
But even with renewed interest in the thin-client market, Wyse is aware it cannot grow itself by a factor of ten in five years just by selling its terminals. Instead Kish, who built Oracle's desktop applications business during the 1990s, has been asked to convert a primarily hardware-focused company, into an infrastructure software player. The germ for this conversion is Rapport, a remote device management software utility that Wyse originally developed to manage the software images of thin-client products in the 1990s. Rapport has subsequently developed into a universal embedded system utility that can provide a single management console for a variety of client devices, including PCs, personal digital assistants and mobile phones. Indeed, according to Curt Schwebke, Wyse's chief technology officer (and one of the few survivors from the company's original senior management team), Rapport can manage pretty well any digital device equipped with flash memory – such as, for instance, an iPod.
With the traditional desktop PC under threat from more flexible, mobile alternatives, Wyse might have identified the right time to launch a management utility that is operating system, applications and physical format agnostic.
The question now is when will Wyse explicitly publish its new strategy and spark the surge in revenues needed to hit Schwebke, Rapport or something very like it will be in the hands of network operators and Internet service providers attracted by the prospect of offering services to wireless device users, regardless of their preferred brand and operating system.
The impact this may have on Wyse's license revenue could turn out to be profound. As Kish points out, whereas today Rapport helps to manage hundreds of devices for Deutsche Bank, tomorrow it "may be managing millions of devices for China Mobile".