VMware Buys SlideRocket in a Race to Provide Collaboration

VMware (s vmw) is showing off its CEO’s Microsoft roots by purchasing SlideRocket, an online presentation provider for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition fits in with VMware’s acquisition of the Zimbra messaging platform in January 2010 and pits VMwareagainst Microsoft, (S msft) Cisco, (s csco) Google (s goog) and other folks in the collaboration space. Javier Soltero CTO, applications at VMware, says this deal is part of a big move by VMware into the application world.

“We are looking at the way cloud computing changes the way people work,” Soltero said in an interview. “With vSphere, we changed life for sysadmins and the way they looked at physical hardware. Cloud Foundry changed the way developers work, and now we want to change the way the end-user experiences his computing. Our strategy is expanding and taking shape with presentations being a core currency in business today.”

SlideRocket, a four-year-old startup that has raised $7 million in funding, offers its software to about 300,000 active users at the moment. It offers both a free version and a paid enterprise version, and Mitch Grasso, founder and CTO of SlideRocket, says sales of the paid version were growing 35 percent month-over-month. With the marketing muscle VMware can now put behind it, he expects conversion rates to increase. Grasso said for now, normal users won’t see any big changes, and he hopes to continue pushing features on the product to users now that it has more resources behind it, with mobile becoming a key area. The plan is to ensure people can view and create rich presentations on tablets and handsets.

As for VMware’s next buys, Soltero was cagey about what he perceived to be the holes in VMware’s application strategy. My hunch is an enterprise social networking product, which is becoming more and more important to enterprise customers, and perhaps an Excel-style spreadsheet or data platform might make sense. SlideRocket was backed by Azure Capital Partners and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and has 25 employees.