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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.
Because one piece of hardware can serve different carrier's cell phone profiles, the handset manufacturer has an incentive to adopt the nirvana architecture, said Rob McCammon, VP of product management for Open Kernel Labs. "Each phone has a lower manufacturing cost" if one design satisfies four carriers instead of each one specifying its own hardware, he said.

Manufacturers could concentrate all their design efforts on advancing one piece of hardware instead multiple units. It sounds good in theory. So far, no device manufacturers have signed up for nirvana. But Open Kernel Labs has already placed its micro hypervisor, or OKL4 microvisor, on handheld units built with ARM, MIPS and x86 chips, so watch this space, McCammon and Fleck said.

Under the Citrix virtualization scheme, the device would continue to function as a particular type of phone under a particular carrier's plan as a mobile device. At the office, however, it would become a cradle-held device capable of relaying the virtualized desktop sent to it by a data center server and displaying it on a full sized monitor or flat screen. A keyboard and mouse would also be attached, via the cradle.

Citrix is already invested in networking protocols that assess the end user device and stream a virtual desktop to it based on the device's speed, memory and display capabilities. It claims that through its high definition experience or HDX protocol, it can deliver a stream of smooth video to a wide variety of devices.

Smartphones need a high definition multimedia interface outlet to fully display animations and video as intended; McCammon predicted that will come in future iterations.

Desktop virtualization fails when it tries to squeeze all of Windows Vista or Windows 7 plus applications onto a device that can be made mobile, such as a laptop. It can succeed if it simply uses the mobile device to access a virtual desktop and display the results it offers when interacting with the end user. "We're not overstressing the capabilities of the little device," said Fleck.

"The nirvana phone represents a near-term paradigm shift " predicted Open Kernel Labs President Steve Subar in the nirvana announcement. The lab, Citrix and other unnamed partners "envision real-world converged nirvana devices enabled for both mobility and desktop productivity entering the market in 12-18 months," he said Feb. 2. The approach was aired in a Webcast Feb. 9 by Citrix and Open Kernel.

Such converged devices would allow laptops to stay home when workers go on trips, as long as nirvana-specified cradles were available at their stops along the way. When end users are surveyed on their preferences, 70% say they'd like to leave their laptops home and only carry a smart phone on trips, McGammon said.