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Interview with Co-Founder Tony Austwick

Catching up with Software2 Co-Founder and EdTech Pioneer Tony Austwick, to find out more about app delivery and deployment in the world's higher education market.

Tony Austwick, Software2 Co-Founder and App Virtualization Specialist

Can you explain some of the biggest pain points that exist in the education field and how Software2 are addressing them?

One of the most complex environments in the IT world is that of the university desktop. No other organisation has problems on such a scale. In most organisations, the relationship between a user and a device is quite static, and the user is only ever likely to require a handful of business applications.

Now think of a university. They will be deploying hundreds of very different applications, catering for all the different disciplines they teach. They then have to be able to deploy these applications to thousands of devices, which will be used by tens of thousands of users. Furthermore, that user base is changing continually. 

The problem was brought home to us in the early days when we spoke with The University of Surrey, who described a situation where a student may never use the same machine twice in 4 years at the university. That is the scale of the challenge our customers face and we are the people to help them face it. 

Whilst we can't help with all of the problems this brings, we feel making the deployment of applications in this environment friction free is a massive benefit. Whilst other solutions make the users go to a specific machine or lab to get their applications, we allow the applications to follow the users.

What are some of the technology trends you see in the education field and how are you injecting those into the solutions you offer?

I think the biggest change in the last few years has been the attitude towards BYOD. Most universities or organisations will tell you they support BYOD, but I am not sure this is really the case. What most people mean when they say this, is they allow the personal devices to connect to the network over Wi-Fi.

At Software2, we think BYOD is around value-add and services that can be supplied on top of just a simple network connection. It is with this in mind that we developed solutions to allow the staff and students of a university access to the apps they need on their own machines, when they need them.

AppsAnywhere allows any Windows app to be deployed to any device, anywhere. Could you shed some light on the features of AppsAnywhere?

AppsAnywhere, using Numecent's Cloudpaging technology, allows an organisation to deliver apps to users on-demand. Although the application is run on the end device and behaves with all the local interactions you would expect, it is not physically installed. We are doing for applications what VDI has done for desktops.

Are there any other technologies you're offering to help improve the student experience?

When having conversations with CIOs in the UK, we found that their main drivers were around improving the student IT experience, increasing the university's standings, and gaining efficiency from better management information. We took this on board and discovered some other unique, innovative and cool solutions out there.

Firstly we partnered with Appixoft, a vendor in the Netherlands that really helps with metrics around the time to teach and making the user experience consistent regardless of their device. Also, very recently, we partnered with Nexthink, who are already helping us provide the information to universities on how to adopt a pro-active problem management methodology and save millions in their hardware refresh cycles.

What are some of the investments Software2 has made for innovations? Can you give us an inside view of what goes on in your innovation lab? 

Software2 are a value-added distributor, and all of our development centres on the solutions we distribute and about making us unique in the market. AppsAnywhere is the centre of this development. What probably makes us different to others out there is that our labs sit in our university customers. Most of our lab work is done with our partners. We take a specific issue a CIO may have and then we build this with them in mind on their site.

Could you mention one or two case studies on how Software2 has enabled clients to overcome challenges and attain desired outcomes with its innovative array of solutions?

The University of Surrey is one of our proudest achievements in all the time we have been running Software2. We first engaged with them on a strategic initiative they had underway called the 10-100-10 program. They had the aim of becoming a top 10 UK university and a top 100 worldwide university, within a 10 year time frame.

As part of the program, we worked on a project with them around improving the student IT experience. As a forward-thinking university, and with AppsAnywhere being a successful project within the program, they have now achieved their desired top 10 standing. The work still continues though and last year the University's software delivery project was shortlisted as a finalist for Public Sector project of the year at the Tech World awards.

Even the most competent of organizations tend to face market competition. What are the strategies employed by Software2 to thwart this competition? What according to you are the company’s key differentiating factors?  

There are two things that help us stay ahead of the competition. Firstly it is a keen view and understanding of our market. We only work in academia, we live and breathe it. I think most CIO's find it refreshing that we understand their challenges and do not confuse them with the same commercial challenges other businesses feel.

Secondly, we aim to be the best at what we do and add significant value around the products we distribute. Either through personnel or through technology that is exclusive and owned by us, like AppsAnywhere and S2Hub.

If you were to give an analogy between any of your personal traits/hobbies and the way you manage the company, what would that be?

I am a massive comic book geek; been collecting comics since I was 14 and have always considered myself as a mini Bruce Wayne. I am batman. Seriously though it's the whole team at Software2 that drives its essence and they are the real superheroes.

The name Software2, is there an interesting story behind its coinage?

I guess when we first started we were trying to be something different and revolutionize the way software is delivered. We are Software version 2, in effect.

Where do you see Software2 a few years down the line? Please elaborate on any upcoming projects or plans that would benefit your customers in the long run.

Bigger, stronger, better. Our mission is to help CIOs improve the student IT experience. We have some very cool, awesome solutions that help do this. As this is the prime driver of a CIO working in education, we are here to help them and I only expect the message to spread and for us to change the way education works across the globe.