Ed Iacobucci, co-founder of Citrix, dies of cancer

The technology industry loses a pioneer.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Edward Iacobucci, the former IBM developer who co-founded the U.S. computer software company Citrix, died this morning at 59, his former company announced. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

His most recent venture was VirtualWorks Group, a company he co‐founded in Florida in 2009 to tackle "data sprawl." Facing declining health, he stepped down from his position as chief executive last month.

"Ed's spirit of entrepreneurship, creativity, passion and persistence will always remain at the core of Citrix," chief executive Mark Templeton said. "We are proud to carry his wondrous torch forward."

Born in Buenos Aires to two Argentines, Iacobucci began his career at at IBM in 1979, where he worked on the company's commercial software and personal computer businesses. He moved up the ranks to eventually lead the joint IBM-Microsoft design team responsible for OS/2, an early milestone in the evolution of personal computer operating systems that was used in automated bank teller machines, public transit ticket machines and supermarket checkout systems.

OS/2 sought to be "a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than Windows," tech columnist Mark Stephens wrote in 2006. The operating system would go on to become a divisive issue between IBM and Microsoft, coloring the companies' relations for years.

In 1989, Iacobucci was offered a job at Microsoft as chief technical officer of its networking group. (In this 2011 video, he describes his job interview with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.) Instead, he left IBM to raise $3 million in capital to pursue continued development in server-based computing. The company he co‐founded was named Citrix Systems. Iacobucci took on the role of chairman, appointed Texas Instruments veteran Roger Roberts as chief executive and hired five engineers away from IBM.

The young company took two years to develop its first product, which was called Citrix Multiuser OS/2, so named because it would work with Iacobucci's former project. The software allowed more than one user at a time to tap into the operating system through a central server computer.

Days before Citrix was to ship its first product, Microsoft announced that it would drop OS/2 in favor of its new operating system Windows. The decision sent Citrix into a tailspin—its new product was instantly rendered obsolete—but the company retrenched to make a Windows version instead.

Fueled by the widespread adoption of the personal computer, Citrix grew rapidly. In 1997, Iacobucci led the company to sign a joint development agreement with Microsoft to include Citrix multi‐user capabilities in its Microsoft Windows NT Server. In 2000, he stepped down as chairman.

Restless in retirement, Iacobucci co‐founded DayJet Corporation in 2002 with the goal of using "on demand" optimization technology to broaden the accessibility and affordability of jet travel. Despite a five-year agreement with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the company ran out of capital and folded in 2008.

In 2009, he co-founded VirtualWorks.

"Every human being has his own vision of what's happening in the future," Iacobucci said in a 1998 award acceptance speech. "I was lucky in that what I thought would happen did happen. When we know we can do it and the rest of the world doesn't—that's when things get interesting."

Iacobucci is survived by his wife, Nancy Lee; his three children, Marianna, William and Michelle; his mother, Costantina; brother, Billy; and three grandchildren.

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