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Tuesday, 11 November 2008 03:46

VMware to take virtualisation to mobile phones

VMware has unveiled plans to bring virtualisation to mobile phones through the new VMware Mobile Virtualisation Platform (MVP), based on technology it acquired from Trango Virtual Processors in October 2008.

VMware claims that VMware MVP will help handset vendors reduce development time and get mobile phones with value-added services to market faster, and enable end users to run multiple profiles – for example, one for personal use and one for work use – on the same phone. (Nokia has already introduced this functionality on its recently released E71).

VMware president and CEO, Paul Maritz, said: "By abstracting the applications and data from the hardware itself, we expect that virtualisation will not only enable handset vendors to accelerate time to market but can also pave the way for innovative applications and services for phone users. We look forward to working closely with our partners to bring new mobile solutions to market faster."

VMware describes MVP as "a thin layer of software that will be embedded on a mobile phone that decouples the applications and data from the underlying hardware," and promises that it will be optimised to run efficiently on low-power-consuming and memory-constrained mobile phones.

It explains that "Today, handset vendors spend significant time and effort getting new phones to market due to the use of multiple chipsets, operating systems and device drivers across their product families. The same software stack does not work across all the phones and, therefore, must be ported separately for each platform. This process is slow and expensive and ultimately slows time to market...

"MVP will virtualise the hardware, enabling handset vendors to develop a software stack with an operating system and a set of applications that is not tied to the underlying hardware. This will enable the vendors to deploy the same software stack on a wide variety of phones without worrying about the underlying hardware differences."

However VMware does not explain how this applies when many vendors already use common platforms across multiple devices, such as Nokia's S40 and S60, not to mention the growing momentum behind Symbian, Android, LiMo and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

The Trango Hypervisor on which MVP will be based is claimed to allows silicon vendors and OEMs to run multiple secure native execution environments on both single core and multi-core platforms. It is claimed to be available for most operating systems including Linux 2.6 and Microsoft Windows CE.

In June Trango announced that it had partnered with Symbian to extend the benefits of virtualisation to the Symbian ecosystem. Trango was founded in 2004 in France.

For corporate users VMware claims that virtualisation will "allow IT organisations to deploy a corporate phone personality that can run alongside the employee's personal phone on the same physical device." Presumably this would enable security measures such as over the air file deletion, to be applied to the corporate profile without impacting the personal profile.

For personal users VMware points out that an individual's collection of applications, pictures, videos, music, emails, bank info, credit card information, PIM, etc. – is becoming much richer and more valuable. Consequently, the ability to protect and migrate personas will become an important purchasing decision.

It says that VMware MVP will save the persona as a set of files so that all the applications and data on the phone can be managed as a collection of files. "People can then easily move their persona to a new device making the upgrade to a new phone virtually painless."

VMware has secured backing from Gartner for this initiative an from chip maker ARM. It quotes Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner as saying: "We predict that by 2012, more than 50 percent of new smart phones shipped will be virtualised. Virtualisation can enable enterprises and consumers to easily manage and secure their phones and it can also help handset vendors reduce bills of materials and shorten development cycles to allow for faster releases."

Eric Schorn, vice president, marketing, processors division, at ARM, said: "There is a rapid and growing demand for virtualisation technologies from both the designers and consumers of next-generation mobile devices utilizing the ARM Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processors. Offering both time to market benefits for system integration and enhanced end-user experiences, we look forward to continuing to work closely with VMware as we enhance our support for virtualisation."

VMware has given no indication as to when its vision will be translated into commercial reality.

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