Interview The polite thing to do after interviewing a high-powered CEO is to wrap the executive in a certain amount of praise. If you're a contemporary, backbone-infused journalist, you lather up that praise and then counter it with a helping of critical insinuations. The trick comes from being firm and aggressive but not too insulting. God forbid you lose access to the sound bytes.
Yes, VMware amazes by almost doubling its revenue every quarter, but CEO Diane Greene will soon face massive tests. Yes, Greene has guided a young VMware with remarkable skill, but she has no experience steering a public company. She has no experience dealing with a spotlight this bright. She has no experience with a zealous Wall Street that values VMware at 100s of times its potential future earnings. She's stubborn. She doesn't seem terribly fond of her owner - EMC.
A ruthless reporter might go even farther. Such a hack could focus on Greene's past as a freedom-loving hippie at times playing with her dinghy and at other times moving to Hawaii to wind surf. Can an executive with a predilection for wind surfing best an obsessed nerd like Bill Gates and a maniacal capitalist like Steve Ballmer? Let's be realistic. VMware is not a - gasp! - $46bn company, no matter how loud Wall Street shouts that it is. This bubble is already fully formed. All it has to gain now is a bit more gloss before the grand bursting. Then reality will settle in on VMware's hype-fueled show.
Fortune's talented reporter Adam Lashinsky seemed to deal with these issues in a recent profile of Greene. Lashinsky actually went sailing with Greene in the San Francisco Bay and has the pictures to prove it.
The Fortune piece proves both factual and painful. Lashinsky captures the major market forces shaping VMware's existence but does the inevitable by recounting the same tales anyone covering VMware has heard time and again about Greene. As mentioned, she likes to sail. She's also short, married to a computer scientist who co-founded VMware and is - or at least was - a quasi-reluctant CEO.
Herein lies the problem with today's VMware: there's little left to do than fetishize the virtualization software maker.
Some of you have grown sick of this VMware adoration. You suggest that we - and possibly other organs - spill too much ink on a "niche" software maker. Yes, virtualization software has its uses. The fad, however, will pass.
To such criticism, Greene responds, "Bullshit!".
Well, not really. But we've known Greene for many years and are pretty sure that's what she'd spout out after a few beers.
"I think they just don't understand ," Greene told us, during an interview at VMware's new headquarters in Palo Alto. "There are just too many advantages (with the technology)."
The point she makes will seem mundane to anyone familiar with computing history. Time and again we see the computing elite latching on to concepts that emerged with grizzled mainframes. The "fresh" utility computing trend replicates the time-sharing of old. Splitting virtual workloads across the processors in a physical box? Yes, we've experienced this in the past. The major difference with today's virtualization is that it takes place on Intel- and AMD-based servers that anyone can buy.