VMware To Virtualize Mobile Phones

LG will soon offer an Android handset with the ability to run a VMware client hypervisor and take on a business profile managed by IT.

"From the IT perspective, there's a phenomenal number of mobile devices to support. IT wants to manage users, not devices," noted Krishnamurti in an interview. At the same time, he said, "The whole notion of IT buying a PC or phone for the employee is old-school thinking."

In VMware's announcement, he got some support from his boss. "The reality is that today's employee-owned mobile devices are often more advanced than corporate offerings," said Stephen Herrod, VMware CTO. Enterprises are "looking to embrace new end-user computing models that allow users to work on the devices they love," he added.

In the background, there's also a sense that IT "can't fight the consumer phone tsunami forever," he added. VMware is announcing a partnership with LG, but it is in talks with other handset manufacturers and several carriers around the world, Krishnamurti said.

No carriers were mentioned by Park or Krishnamurti in interviews, but VMware's announcement Tuesday quotes a carrier that sells LG handsets, Verizon Wireless. Humphrey Chen, the firm's executive director of new technologies, said the VMware partnership with one of its handset suppliers has caught its attention.

"We're seeing interest from customers in the area of mobile personas, which allow a personal mobile phone to be leveraged in a professional setting." Such personal/business phones still need to be managed in a secure way, he acknowledged, without exactly making a guarantee that Verizon will be the first to deliver. Still, he said: "The kind of virtualization that VMware offers helps to make this (secure operation) happen, and we're evaluating ways to help our customers achieve this."

If VMware is talking to additional suppliers, recognizing that different phone makers use different chips increases the commitment VMware will have to make behind its virtual phone strategy. But the idea of one phone serving two different purposes is a match for what many IT observers say is inevitable. Consumer technology is tending to move faster and overwhelm what business-focused technology can provide. To keep up, the smart enterprise and smart IT staff will have to find a way to work with that trend instead of fighting it.

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