Virtual phone will aid smooth operations and save on grey hairs

It sounds scary but the VMware virtualised phone could be a boon to the way companies run their operations

OK, I was wrong I was expecting us all to be wearing jumpsuits made out of kitchen foil, eye makeup, and little goatee beards before concepts such as virtual phones came into common usage. But it looks as if the future is right here with us, because VMWare's hypervisor for Android smartphones has found a deployment partner in Telefonica, which owns the O2 and Movistar mobile networks, among other things. 

I can see the eyebrows rising already. For one thing, Android phones aren't the first choice for business platforms. The more pressing question, however, is: what is the link between phones, virtual machines and the cloud? Surely the virtual bit of cloud concepts and systems is all handled far away from the poor ordinary citizen, in rooms full of loud fans and  blinking lights? 

My best proof of the reality of the need for a pocket hypervisor would be to get a fresh portrait shot taken at Virtual Clouds. That way I could show you my new crop of grey hairs, all earned working for a particular recent client.

This is a company that has deployed 30 Android phones as business tools, to sync mailboxes with its corporate mail store.

To add to the complications,  this federation of rich professionals working together has meant that it 's not just a case of smoothly dropping in a single deployment of 30 identical phones - that would have been too easy. Instead, in an early example of the reality of deciding to allow bring your own device (BYOD), an element of choice was allowed to creep into the user facing bit of the project. That's a nice way of saying it was like herding cats. 

The problem is that Android phones are all different. The App Store for Android is run by Google. Unfortunately, Android progresses by releasing many small updates and versions, a bit like Windows, and very unlike Apple's "big jump every 9-18 months or so" approach to both OSX and IOS. The small-increment approach means that different phones come with different feature-sets, and are going to be put on different streams of later updates: and naturally enough for my sense of impending doom about my project, the part of Android that was changing through the updates, was the mail client.

Apparently the biggest gripes from users on the Android bug forums is about messages getting stuck in the outbasket. This meant that nice walkthrough documents to help BYOD users set up their mail account on Android, are near enough worthless when the stragglers in the project (who of course are the least techie and the least able to actually make BYOD work as a concept) come along and try to play catch-up. 

The practical business upshot of this was that my project estimate was in tatters. Things that should have been consistent  were not.

Some of those things were deeply technical (like different OS revisions of Android having different SSL Certificates), while others were mind-numbingly trivial (the password field had moved! Oh no, is it a virus?What should we DO?).

This is exactly the kind of situation that the VMware 1+1 pocket hypervisor is intended to simplify. The phone has a "private" personality, frankly filled up with trash, games, pictures of the school fete, whatever. A single icon that looks like an app launches the *other* OS install, using hypervisor tech to park the startup configuration and fire something up that can be constructed and distributed in a much more traditional centralised, consistent IT style

This considerably eases the management of the devices as real techniques can be used instead of rubbing away fingerprints by stabbing at innumerable touchscreen phones as well taking shrieking phone calls from people who've been given the wrong phone back and only work it out when they find pictures of someone else's kids in the gallery. 

So the basic business output of this frankly obscure technology-orientated announcement is that it will make IT management of smartphones much more predictable. What's more, it will protect vital business communication from the frankly horrific, chaotic and depressing world of raw consumerism added to app store greed powered by technophobic ignorance that is private smartphone ownership at present.

It's rather unlikely to find massive traction, in my view, while it is tied together with a megascale connectivity provider like Telefonica, because they will naturally be selling it as part of their equally large-scale smartphone rollouts for connected corporates - but perhaps they already have the grey hairs I've been recently accumulating, and this is valuable enough for them to get into using it within their own projects.

For my part, I see BYOD a bit like NHS reforms - it's not so much that an immediate miracle will occur and we will instantly lead better lives - rather, the topic works as a way of identifying the misguided and the frankly obstructive, and provides a method of taking them out of the debate.

I love the idea that it really does take a hypervisor-based approach to fix woes in a post-2005 software design project - after all, one might have hoped Google would have learned one or two things from all the mistakes of the Windows and Linux development processes of the preceding few decades.

However, I can't shake the feeling that VMWare has missed a trick by partnering with a network. The people best placed to benefit from this are not in networks, they are in beleagured company support operations – and I should know.

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