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In a Major Move VMware Expands into Mobile

The move, called “significant,” is VMware’s first departure from the x86 platform

VMware, the bruised and bloodied virtualization leader, will announce today that it’s going into the mobile business with a high-end real-time cell phone hypervisor called MVP, short for Mobile Virtualization Platform.

The move, called “significant,” is VMware’s first departure from the x86 platform.

VMware bought the widgetry it’s offering to ARM-based smartphone makers last month from a little French outfit called Trango Virtual Processors after pondering the space for the last two years and running up its own proof-of-concept prototype.

It says it paid an immaterial sum for the four-year-old acquisition.

ARM is the dominant mobile phone chip, including, for the moment, Apple’s iPhone.

VMware could have bought another French firm, VirtualLogix, which used to belong to Sun and has maybe a two-year lead on Trango, but VirtualLogix, which says its approach is more like VMware’s than Trango’s, has raised $33 million in venture capital from Intel, Motorola, Cisco and TI, among other VCs, and may have been out of VMware’s price range.

The only other company in the field is the little-know Open Kernel Labs.

VMware says it has 15 handset markers looking at its MVP without any takers yet.

VirtualLogix has ST-NXP Wireless, the three-month-old semiconductor joint venture between STMicroelectronics and NXP, child of Philips. The venture’s customers ship 80% of all handsets.

Gartner has forecast that by 2012 50% of new smartphones will be virtualized, an evolution that has yet to begin.

And the tea leaf readers say that by 2012-13 300 million cell phones will be sold a year.

VMware also hopes to make inroads into so-called lower-end features phones displacing their proprietary operating systems.

It expects to make software stacks more portable since what phone makers use now don’t work across all their phones; VMware’s isn’t tied to the underlying hardware or device drivers.

Virtualization promises handset makers added security and services as well as cheaper bills of material and shorter development cycles and users will be able to put both their personal and business phones on one handset like a two-line phone.

It also promises VMware another revenue source if only pennies per handset. It will need to sell in volume.

MVP, which virtualizes the hardware, is described as a thin layer of software embedded on a mobile phone that decouples the applications and data from the underlying hardware and is optimized to run on low-power, memory-constrained mobile phones.

Handset makers can develop a software stack with an OS and set of applications that’s not tied to the underlying hardware, effectively universalizing the widgetry.

Trango supports Windows CE, Symbian, eCos and Linux and can isolate proprietary code from the Linux GPL license constraints, particularly GPL 3, which has raised significant concerns for OEMs that have invested heavily in the open source OS.

Running GPL-implicated code and proprietary code on top of different virtual processors enables features, providers and license constraints to be separated.

VMware has the new effort inside its emerging unit.

Trango, which uses Eclipse tools, also supports the Mips chip and ARM-derivative XScale which can push VMware into the broader embedded market of consumer electronics, networking, point of sales and automotive and industrial. 

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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