Virtualization pioneer, VMware is looking to break in to the mobile market, and create virtual mobile phone technology in a similar way to the company’s server virtualization technology. On Monday the company announced the arrival of VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP), which it has developed from technology it gained from Trango Virtual Processors last month.
The basic premise is to extract applications and data from a phone’s hardware, which should cut the development time required by manufacturers, as well as enabling mobile phone users to install a variety of different application over a wider range of handsets
According to the company, mobile phone manufacturers are spending a lot of time getting new phones to the marketplace because they have to code for multiple chipsets, operating systems, and device drivers across their product families.
Chris Hazelton, research director of mobile and wireless for The 451 Group said, “There’s a benefit to the manufacturer – it’s lower cost in terms of development because you can have software on a number of different devices, and it doesn’t need to be tweaked for each device, just for the virtualized environment.”
However, it seems there may be more to it that that, and the result could be f more benefit to both carriers and end users. Most mobile phone manufacturers are getting used to the idea of building mobile phones that use open operating systems. That being said, a phones core functions, ad its private data need to remain secure and in working order.
“A mobile phone has core features and responsibilities, and that’s voice — being able to work with a carrier network – and that operating system is tightly controlled by the carrier and the device vendor,” Hazelton said.
“And then you have this virtualized environment that would be open to developers or open to the user to add and install applications to customize the phone as they want – it’s this sandbox that’s very distinct and separate from the core features of the phone, and it won’t disrupt the carrier network,” he explained.
Hazelton noted that virtualization could be used to make a traditional phone work in the same way as one of the more current smartphones – without the development time involved in building one.
“It will take a couple of years before this gets some traction,” he added.
Although at this point, it’s all a bit unclear exactly what VMware will do, market research company Gartner believe it will give the mobile industry a further boost.
“Gartner sees virtualization in the mobile space as a very promising and potentially a fast emerging market,” noted Monica Basso, a research vice president for Gartner.
“We predict that by 2012, more than 50 percent of new smartphones shipped will be virtualized,” she added.
VMware have also made us think about the idea of having multiple profiles on our phones. Think of it in a social networking sense: Facebook for work colleagues, Myspace for socialising. By having virtualized phones, we could separate our work from our play profiles, keeping work files separate, and having different contact lists.
Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT said, “The arrival of the iPhone and the G1 Google phone, along with the Windows-based smartphones and BlackBerries, are getting people to think about exactly what is a smartphone?”
“In the traditional sense, a smartphone was basically a cell phone with a PDA strapped to it. BlackBerry took a step further by optimizing for e-mail and instant messaging, and I think what we’re looking at now, with the iPhone and G1 – and some devices that are on the way – are full-fledged hand-held computers,” he said.
“At a certain point, you have to say, ‘If I have a handheld computer, what is the best way to utilize the system resources?’” King noted.
“And I think that’s the question VMware is looking to address,” he added.
King also believes that by virtualizing a mobile phone, you can keep your vital files and data safe from hackers.
“What happens when hackers start targeting malicious code at the smartphone market?” King said. “The browser could be isolated from the rest of the phone, or you could isolate e-mail, to keep the greater system from being damaged,” he said.