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VMware unveils mobile phone virtualization hypervisor

VMware's Mobile Virtualization Platform will let users run multiple operating systems on one device. But partners don't expect any immediate returns.

VMware is getting into the mobile phone virtualization market, but partners say the technology is way too new to know how it will affect them.

VMware has announced the VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP), a hypervisor that will run on some of the most popular mobile phones, including Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry. The technology behind the Mobile Virtualization Platform comes from Trango Virtual Processors, a Grenoble, France-based company that VMware acquired this week.

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Mobile phone virtualization lets one mobile phone run multiple operating systems. The technology could let users keep a "business phone" and a "personal phone" on the same device, for example, and allow users to seamlessly transfer their mobile data when they upgrade to a new device, VMware said.

CEO Paul Maritz said in a statement that VMware will work closely with partners "to bring new mobile solutions to market faster," but the exact role of the channel remains unclear.

The opportunity is scant for now, but advances in mobile phone virtualization technology could open up more doors for solution providers in the future, said Mike Willard, co-founder and principal with Soccour Solutions, a Dallas-based VMware partner.

"My understanding is that this will be more geared toward the consumer market, and as such will have minimum impact for VMware partners focused on data center infrastructure today," he said via email. "However, the possibilities of such a technology and how it might integrate with business users and applications in the future is exciting and something that we'll be keeping a close eye on as the mobile hypervisor matures."

Keith Norbie, storage and virtualization director for Nexus Information Systems, a VMware partner in Plymouth, Minn., said mobile phone virtualization could help businesses take a more OS-neutral approach to mobile device management. For instance, most businesses have embraced BlackBerry use, and the iPhone is still fighting for acceptance. But if employees can run a virtual operating system approved by their company, it won't matter what device they have.

"The possibilities are as far as the imagination can take you," Norbie said.

The Mobile Virtualization Platform is a bare-metal hypervisor that runs on the ARM processors found in many mobile phones. It supports Windows, Linux and Symbian mobile operating systems.

Norbie said he doesn't expect the technology to take off for at least another year, but the rapid adoption of the iPhone and BlackBerry this year gives him hope.

"If there's one sector that has the possibility for instant change, it's the mobile phone sector," he said.

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