Monday, November 17, 2008

Virtualization is poised to give mobile phones the business

Original post: Betanews

virtualization Looking to slash development times and further blur the lines between Mac and PC, not to mention mobile and fixed, several efforts are afoot to bring virtualization to your mobile phone.

The possibilities are tantalizing. For instance, Citrix is said to be nearing the Apple App Store (metaphorically speaking) with virtualization software for the iPhone. If the makers of the popular GoToMyPC app can deliver, the new number-two smartphone vendor could offer a powerful push for adoption to business folk using Wintel systems at work.

Over at market leader VMware, meanwhile, they've talking up VMware MVP (Mobile Virtualization Platform), which frames the virtualization possibilities in terms of the things users already do on their phone -- or, rather, phones. One of the chief selling points of MVP is its potential to allow "multiple personalities" for a single device -- that's right, two phones / one handset. That would be happy news for those whose jobs require that they carry a work phone but not use it for personal purposes, since the phone's functionality could be swapped between a corporate personality (security-conscious, approved apps only) and personal settings (Bejeweled, photo-happy).

That sort of Chinese wall will cheer up the IT guys responsible for troubleshooting those work devices, and the prospect of quick development over multiple platforms -- another aspect of VMware's mobile-virtualization pitch -- ought to cheer the software-development types. Some might argue that that's why we have Java, but faced with the practical aspects of running, say, Windows CE and Symbian operating systems and apps on the same device, VMware's investment in mobile this week makes good sense. The company announced the purchase in October of Trango Virtual Processors, a French specialist firm.

And other solutions are out there. Motorola, Cisco, Intel and Texas Instruments have invested funds in VirtualLogix (nee Jaluna), which was founded by Sun Microsystems alumni. Open Kernel Labs has had product out for months in various Toshiba, LG, Sony Ericsson and HTC handsets; the company has a private-public partnership with Australia's Information and Communications Technology Center of Excellence (NICTA). Its other customers include Samsung and Qualcomm.

On other platforms, organizations already "get" virtualization. A survey released by IDC in July indicated that 52% of all servers purchased in 2008 are expected to be virtualized -- and that 54% of firms not already on the virtualization bandwagon expected to be riding within 18 months. It's even more impressive that buy-in is so thorough that most companies aren't even worrying about making a separate business case for virtualization -- infrastructure is just infrastructure, parts is parts.

The numbers are nowhere near as high for mobile virtualization, but both handset manufacturers and virtualization vendors are operating on the premise that the camel's nose is already well into the tent.

The longtime goal of a smartphone that requires just one or two chips -- subtracting both complexity and cost -- probably isn't around the corner, but virtualization seems to be the most visible milestone along the path. You'll know when we reach it, because a lot of tech folks' belts and backpacks will be lighter by at least one beeping, buzzing device.