Motorola Mobility has joined LG and Samsung among the companies building VMware's hypervisor into their phones. The move is part of a larger push at Motorola to cater to business users.
VMware's mobile hypervisor works on Android phones and lets users switch between an "open" portion of the phone, which they can use for personal functions, and a business side that's controlled by IT and protected from potentially malicious applications.
Motorola didn't share many details about its plans, such as which models will get the hypervisor and when, but it appears VMware may be planning to formally announce the partnership soon. A VMware spokeswoman said the company expected to announce other OEMs, besides LG and Samsung, "in the coming months." Those phone makers have pledged to build VMware's technology into all their phone models.
There are some downsides to the "dual-persona" approach to mobile virtualization, said an executive from Motorola. "The thing I haven't seen yet is a user experience consumers could embrace," said Christy Wyatt, vice president of enterprise at Motorola Mobility.
Consumers are constantly switching among apps on their phones. But to go from Facebook, for instance, on the personal side of the phone, to an email application on the business side, the user must sign into the business side of the phone separately. "It's not an organic experience," she said.
"We'd love to work with them on an experience that made it more comfortable for consumers," Wyatt said.
She pointed to a benefit of the dual-persona model. "One thing people get excited about with dual-persona is dual billing," she said. Virtualized phones offer the potential for enterprises to pay for employee use of corporate apps but not their personal apps.
"IT managers want to give smartphone devices out to a broader number of users but they're nervous about the cost of data," Wyatt noted. They worry about users who might use cellular data to stream video and rack up huge bills, for example. But if enterprises can track the typical data use of corporate apps and reimburse employees for just that data consumption, they will be more comfortable issuing mobile devices to more workers.
Instead of virtualization, Motorola is also offering products from 3LM, a company it acquired last year. 3LM secures Android devices via enterprise server software and an application on the phone. It offers device encryption, the ability to set blacklists or white lists of applications, password enforcement and the ability to wipe data remotely.
Motorola, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson and Samsung are among the vendors building 3LM's technology into their phones.
Motorola also has a line of phones it calls Business Ready that includes features like password enforcement, remote wipe and a VPN client.
It also now offers resources for in-house developers of enterprise apps. Motorola already has extensive infrastructure through its Motodev program to support developers, Wyatt said. The company took some of those resources relevant for in-house developers and added additional support materials to offer Motodev for Enterprise, she said.
Motorola is coordinating its enterprise efforts through its Enterprise Business Unit, now headed by Wyatt. The company hopes to play a role in helping businesses navigate the mobile environment. "These are new challenges" for IT administrators, Wyatt said. IT administrators have only recently been faced with having to figure out how to manage phones that workers bring to the office and how to pay for the use of them.
It's important that companies like Motorola work hard to meet these new needs of IT workers, she said. "We'll have to adapt. The alternative is workers will send their email to a Gmail account, and then we'll have all failed," she said.