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Telefonica, Verizon soon to offer virtualized Android phones

Telefonica will offer Samsung phones and Verizon will sell LG phones that use VMware's Android hypervisor

Telefonica and Verizon in a few months will become the first operators to offer Android phones running VMware's mobile hypervisor, the companies announced Wednesday at the VMworld 2011 Europe conference in Copenhagen.

VMware has previously said that Verizon would offer the service, without disclosing details about timing, but this is the first time Telefonica has said it plans to offer phones with the hypervisor.

Users of phones with the VMware product will find two profiles on their devices: one for personal use and one for business use. The setup allows for the isolation of enterprise apps from apps available on the open Android Market that could be malicious.

The operators will be making slightly different offerings, said Steve Herrod, chief technology officer for VMware.

Telefonica will make its offering available initially on the Samsung Galaxy SII. Unlike Verizon, Telefonica will allow users to have two phone numbers, one for business and one for personal use. That means a user will be able to have two voice and data subscriptions on one phone.

Telefonica is able to make that offering using dual-SIM cards. Such a setup would be more difficult for Verizon, which will only allow one phone number on its service, because of its network technology.

IT managers will be able to remotely control the business side of the phone using software from VMware. That software lets administrators remotely wipe just the corporate applications and data, push applications to the phones and set policies for the corporate profile. Telefonica will offer the IT management features as a hosted service.

Verizon will instead offer that software to enterprises to run from inside their firewalls, Herrod said.

Verizon's offer will initially be available on LG phones. Phone makers must build part of the necessary software into the phones before they hit shelves, meaning the selection of compatible phones initially is likely to be small. LG and Samsung are the only two manufacturers to have announced their support of VMware's technology.

Neither operator is announcing specific launch dates or pricing but say the service will be available in the coming months.

VMware first started talking about its mobile hypervisor late last year. Interest in the concept of separating business applications from personal, particularly for Android phones, appears to be growing.

Last week, AT&T launched a service called Toggle that allows users to separate work applications from personal applications on Android phones. It's based on technology from Enterproid, which is different from VMware's in that applications must be built using Enterproid's technology in order to be separated from the rest of the phone.

OK Labs is pushing a similar concept for isolating certain applications. Last week, Red Bend started talking about its own virtualization technology, which would work similarly to VMware's, but it hasn't announced phone or operator partners yet.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com


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