RIP Ed Iacobucci: Citrix Founder, OS/2 Pioneer, Helluva Engineer

Written by Gina Smith

it’s a sad day for friends and family of tech genius Ed Iacobucci, who died of cancer June 21, 2013. Long-time friend Gina Smith remembers him here. — Ed Iacobucci, founder of Citrix and a genius operating systems innovator, was one of my favorite people in the world. Brilliant, funny and ever prescient, he lit up a lot of lives.

My life was one of them.

I’m sad to report that Ed died Friday, leaving behind his wife, Nancy, three children — Marianna Eden, William Iacobucci and Michelle Iacobucci — his mother, Constantina, brother Billy and three grandchildren. He lived in Delray Beach, Florida.

Born in 1953 in Buenos Aires, Ed was 7 when his biochemist father, Guillermo Iacobucci, moved his family to the United States. The elder Iacobucci worked for Squibb and Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola chairman Roberto Goizueto was Ed’s godfather. Ed told me once about Goizueto and the huge influence he had on Ed’s sense of business ethics — the importance of doing the right thing — and the importance of doing the kind thing at the same time you were doing the smart thing and the right thing.

After obtaining a B.S. in systems engineering from Georgia Tech, Ed joined IBM in 1979. When I met him in 1988, he was in charge of IBM’s design and systems architecture for PC-DOS — and he led the ill-fated IBM-Microsoft joint venture to build OS/2, a multitasking operating system that survived as the system kernel in later versions of Microsoft Windows.

Here’s a video I shot with Ed two years ago from the studios at BYTE.

In many ways, Ed’s work at IBM paved the way for modern systems — not just OS/2 and Windows NT, but for a re-envisioning of multitasking that led him to leave IBM in 1989 to start  Citrix Systems (NASDAQ: CTXS), a startup he created from scratch in Coral Gables, Florida to embody his vision of server-centered, multi-user computing.

The tiny startup enjoyed crazy growth and exciting times under Ed’s lead. It was admitted into the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 within five years of its founding.

A coup de grace for Ed: In 1997, he contracted with Microsoft to create what he called then “an unprecedented, five-year joint development agreement” with Microsoft, the same company that broke with Ed’s team in the notorious IBM-Microsoft OS/2 unpairing of the late 1980s. This time, Microsoft contracted with Ed to include Citrix software and its multi-user features as built-in features in Windows NT Server.

Ed was among the first to talk about cloud computing — back when most of us called it software-as-a-service. He retired as Citrix chair in 2000 and pursued another vision. Flying.

In 2002, Ed co-founded and was CEO of DayJet Corporation, a jet taxi service. Essentially, it’s what he called an on-demand airline service that sold individual seats via a time-sensitive pricing scale utilizing the Eclipse 500 very light jet. It was the world’s first on-demand air service. Though it had a five-year deal with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) it shuttered in 2008, a year after its founding, when it ran into funding issues.

Ed’s view of software-as-a-service, which finally came to fore, served him well in the end. He founded VirtualWorks, a company intended to help IT managers and employees deal with the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend and easily find data on disparate devices.

Ed was highly decorated by the time he left VirtualWorks this May due to health reasons. Ernst & Young named him International Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998. Newsweek included him in its “10 Big Thinkers for Big Business” in 2005. In 2007, Business 2.0 listed him among its featured “50 Who Matter Now.”

Ed served on the engineering advisory board at his alma mater, Georgia Tech.  As that school’s fight song promised, he really was a helluva engineer, when it came down to it.

I, for one, will sorely miss Ed. RIP Ed Iacobucci.

Gina Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s memoir, ” iWOZ: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It”. (W.W. Norton, 2005/2007/2012). With John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle, she is editorial director at Email her at, check out her Google + stream here or follow her @ginasmith888.