It took a couple of years to suit VMware (NYSE: VMW ) up in a corporate three-piece and tie, but once the pocket protectors and duct-taped glasses came off, it was a very quick process indeed.
Data storage specialist EMC (NYSE: EMC ) gobbled VMware up back in 2004, only to digest it a bit and spit the virtual server specialist back on the public market again last year. A $625 million investment turned into a more than $15 billion value on IPO day, but VMware's boss was still co-founder, naval architect, and computer scientist Diane Greene.
Her replacement, Paul Maritz, is a bombastic and business-savvy engineer with a Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) pedigree, far removed from Greene's do-it-yourself image and media-shy personality. Bye-bye, geek paradise. Hello, big business.
This week, VMware gets further into the big-biz mindset by putting former IBM (NYSE: IBM ) executive David Sung in charge of its Greater China operations. Sung held a similar position at Big Blue for many years, and he'll bring some Big Blue know-how to his position. Chinese expansion is all the rage these days, and VMware will be doing so under experienced leadership. And yes, Sung is into professional-looking suits and ties.
That doesn't mean that VMware's innovation is dead, or that its entire corporate culture suddenly buttoned up and straightened its collective tie. Maritz may not be as eccentric as Steve Ballmer, and nowhere near the charismatic charm of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) leader Steve Jobs, but he has done time on the front lines of programming and software design. He's not likely to do anything stupid, like canceling Casual Friday or asking for TPS reports in triplicate.
But VMware today is a very different company than VMware six months ago. Let's hope that Maritz and his chosen lieutenants turn out more like showman Larry Ellison of Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) than self-proclaimed empress Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) . Ellison wears a very expensive suit, but he still knows how to run a tech business.