In November 2008 VMware acquired the mobile virtualization startup Trango. Just a couple of months later Citrix invested in one of the biggest Trango competitors: Open Kernel Labs (OK Labs).
The moves clarified that virtualization vendors see the mobile market as their next battleground. Anyway, the competition there may take a while to start.
VMware has been silent for many months about the progress made with its Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) and while virtualization.info recently reported about the good health of the project, the company’s current position is very cautious about the opportunities in the mobile space. At the beginning of the month VMware’s Srinivas Krishnamurti said:
“Our belief is that on mobile phones, we haven’t quite found that kind of a compelling use case with a clear [return on investment],” Krishnamurti said. The mobile world is different from data centers and PCs because users can’t simply choose to install bare-metal hypervisors on their phones. Rather, the handset makers and carriers have to sign on to the concept, Krishnamurti said.
Citrix has been silent too about the reasons behind its investment in OK Labs and the business relationship with the startup.
The same Computerworld article anyway reports that the two are very much still working on a plan to bring full hardware virtualization on smartphones:
OK Labs has been working on mobile virtualization since its founding in 2006, but the field has evolved, Subar said. It began with virtualizing the mobile phone baseband processor, which handles communication, and in the past two years has evolved to being used in application processors. The company’s virtualization technology has been used in a string of Qualcomm platforms, including the Snapdragon chipset used in the HTC EVO 4G and other devices, he said.
The company is also working with Citrix on the possibility of running a virtualized Windows desktop on the user’s choice of mobile phone, something that would require virtualization on the handset to secure the session, Subar said.
On top of that, it’s a well-known thing that Samsung is porting Xen on ARM architectures.
Regardless of the return on investment, for Citrix, VMware or any other smaller player interested in porting hardware virtualization on handsets, there’s only one partner: Google.
With Apple keeping its iOS under tight control, and Nokia in the middle of an identity crisis between Symbian and MeeGo, Android is the only open, unlocked platform that a hypervisor could feature as guest OS inside a phone.
Of course there’s also Microsoft and its new Windows Phone 7: ironically, the only company that owns both a hypervisor and a whole mobile platform, with enough power and influence to spread a mobile version of Hyper-V in hundreds of handsets, is the only one offered zero sign of interest for this kind of future.