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Citrix Developing 'Nirvana Phone'

Partnering with Open Kernel Labs, Citrix finds a way to turn smartphones into devices that power virtual desktops.

Citrix Systems, an innovator in desktop virtualization, believes the route to virtualizing thousands of desktops in large enterprises may lie through the smartphone.

Unlike servers in the data center, end user computing has thus far resisted speedy virtualization. No single approach to the problem seems to match all the end user groups and needs that crop up as soon as an IT staffer proposes to implement virtualization. Unlike with servers, even the savings on virtualized clients has looked like an iffy proposition.

Citrix's proposed phone approach looks at first glance like a wild card play. Where there are thousands of employees, an IT architect planning end user virtualization would find many brands of smartphones, each with its own operating system and display characteristics. To try to use them all would multiply the complexities encountered in end user virtualization. Why proceed toward such a Pandora's box?

By itself, Citrix didn't have the answers. But partnering with Open Kernel Labs may provide the path to a solution.

If the pair can get enough phone manufacturers to sign on to their "nirvana phone" specification, they will have laid the ground work for the phone to play a larger role.

Open Kernel Labs supplies a micro hypervisor that can run virtual machines on the phone. Citrix has Citrix Receiver, client software that supplies a neutral runtime environment that works on a Mac as well as a Windows PC. There are now lightweight Receiver clients for Apple iPhones, the RIM BlackBerry, Nokia, and other handset brands running Symbian, Google's Android system, Linux or Windows Mobile.

The Citrix ability to translate virtualized desktops to different end user devices combined with the Open Kernel hypervisor offers the prospect of neutralizing all those different hardware/operating system platforms. (Citrix has invested in Open Kernel Labs as well as partnering with it.)

A mobile unit built to the nirvana-reference architecture could become several different types of phones through different software running under a hypervisor. "A mobile phone with our client virtualization software can support more than one mobile phone operating system," said Chris Fleck, Citrix VP of community and solutions development.

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