VMware Puts Hypervisor Virtualization on Mobile Phones

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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The VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform, a hypervisor built for the ARM processors that run mobile phones, was created with technology VMware acquired from Trango Virtual Processors. The VMware mobile phone hypervisor will work with Windows, Windows CE, Symbian and, soon, Android.

Take a look around you at the supermarket, the coffee shop, or any meeting you happen to be in. Chances are that quite a few of the people around you have more than one mobile phone.

Looking to cut down on the number of devices that consumers and businesspeople carry, VMware has announced plans to launch a virtualization platform for mobile devices, or a mobile hypervisor. One of the benefits is that you will be able to store more than one profile (phone number, preferences, phonebook) on a single phone. That means you can ditch one of your phones and put both your personal and work profiles on a single device.

To make that possible, VMware is releasing VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform, built on technology that VMware acquired from Trango Virtual Processors in October.

The technology works with ARM processors, which are the brains behind mobile phones and many other embedded technologies, such as the processors used in most automobiles.

"We're looking at mobile phones as the next frontier," Srinivas Krishnamurti, VMware's director of emerging markets, tells Channel Insider. "We think the market opportunity is sizable. Fifty percent of all smart phones will have virtualization on them by 2012," he adds, citing figures from Gartner.

Krishnamurti points out that VMware has spent considerable time optimizing the mobile hypervisor to ensure that it doesn't end up consuming too much memory or power—two key issues with mobile phones.

"We see a future where the mobile phone is becoming PC, a wallet and a phone all bundled into one package," says Krishnamurti.

In addition to allowing multiple profiles on a single device, mobile phone virtualization will also let a user contain his or her virtual persona within a virtual machine, enabling much easier migration from one device to another when the user upgrades to a new phone.

"You don't want to start over every time you buy a new phone," Krishnamurti says.

VMware anticipates that the technology will simplify application development for mobile phones, enabling developers to write to the virtual machine instead of having to write separate versions for each mobile phone operating system.

"If they can package up as virtual machine, it simplifies their development and gives them a much bigger footprint on which they can land," says Krishnamurti. Currently the hypervisor supports Microsoft Windows, Windows CE and Symbian, and support is coming soon for Google Android.

Getting carriers to cooperate may be another story, however. If your employer uses one mobile phone carrier and you use a different one for your personal mobile phone, you may get left out in the cold in terms of being able to put both profiles on a single device. Krishnamurti says while it's technically possible to do so, VMware is in negotiations with mobile phone carriers to get their permission to enable it.

Meanwhile, it will be a little while before the technology is available in phones. Because it's an embedded technology, VMware does not anticipate an aftermarket market for the mobile phone hypervisor.

Rather, new phones will begin showing up on the market toward the end of 2009 with the technology already embedded. VMware is working with handset manufacturers to make that happen.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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