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Citrix Snags Sapho For $200 Million To Enhance Employee Experience

The startup's ‘micro app’ platform uses artificial intelligence to surface important information across systems. The $200 million deal will boost the capabilities of the Citrix Workspace app.

Citrix, looking to help its enterprise customers achieve greater worker productivity, on Thursday revealed the acquisition of Sapho, a startup with an intelligent portal for engaging employees.

Citrix will pay $200 million for the San Bruno, Calif.-based company that leverages artificial intelligence to unbundle monolithic systems into component pieces, streamline internal workflows, and drive smarter decisions.

"Our mission was to use intelligent augmentation to change the productivity equation for all workers," Sapho CEO and co-founder Fouad El Naggar told CRN.

"Now we're joining the Citrix family and turbocharging that vision," El Naggar said.

[Related: Citrix Introduces Revamped Channel Program]

Sapho developed its Employee Experience Portal to help large companies cull information from their existing systems of record, wherever they were hosted, and generate an integrated feed to any endpoint, from mobile devices, to the Alexa voice assistant, to collaboration products like Microsoft Office 365 and Slack.

"Wherever the employee was, we wanted to allow them to do their work at the edge," El Naggar told CNR.

The deal is highly strategic for Citrix as it builds out its vision for an intelligent workspace, David Le Strat, vice president for product management at Citrix, told CRN

Sapho's "action-oriented personal assistant for every employee" will be embedded into Citrix Workspace, Le Strat said.

Workspace is a client-side app for any device and operating system that serves as a user portal for ingesting all Citrix back-end services, as well as dozens of apps from popular Software-as-a-Service vendors.

The Sapho platform applies AI to learn about users from their activity and then surface high-priority events, identify trends, and flag anomalies. The platform can also integrate with external AI technologies to enable natural language processing for chat interfaces.

Paul Kunze, vice president of sales and marketing at IntraSystems, a Citrix partner based in Braintree, Mass., told CRN the deal ensures the user experience in Citrix Workspace will be "superior to all other platforms."

"The acquisition of Sapho brings intelligence and security into Citrix Workspace, while also increasing product value beyond virtual apps and desktops by bringing automation access to applications and data," Kunze said.

Citrix CEO David Henshall introduced Workspace at the Citrix Synergy conference in May as part of a larger strategy to merge the virtualization company's many products and divisions into a more unified and streamlined portfolio.

The product essentially unifies elements from Citrix Receiver, ShareFile and XenMobile, Henshall told CRN, and is "applicable to every enterprise, every employee," Henshall told CRN.

Workspace offers a gateway to Citrix' traditional on-premise solutions like XenApp and XenDesktop; Citrix Cloud, an umbrella platform for about 15 Citrix services and public cloud integrations; and SaaS from vendors like Salesforce and Workday.

For those third-party solutions, Workspace delivers single sign-on capability and a hardened web-browser, purpose-built from the Chromium open source browser, that imposes the same security controls as for Citrix-virtualized apps and desktops.

Offering a highly capable and intuitive interface is a point of differentiation for Citrix, said Carl Gersh, director of sales and marketing for Forthright Technology Partners, a Citrix partner based in Miramar, Fla.

Citrix' ongoing investment in technologies that enhance and improve the user experience, including development of the Workspace app and now the Sapho purchase, shows the company "hasn’t wavered in its focus on delivering a superior user experience," Gersh said.

"Interestingly, many technology purveyors ignore the user experience area," Gersh said. "If you’ve ever used SAP, especially the older version, you’ll know what I mean."

Sapho will move its employees to Citrix' West Coast headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif, and El Naggar and co-founder and CTO Peter Yared will both join the company.

Citrix will also expand its European presence by maintaining Sapho's research and development office in Prague, El Naggar told CRN.

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