Virtualizing Android - the perfect consumer/workplace smartphone marriage

LG and VMWare are teaming up to virtualize Android on smartphones - possibly solving the personal/professional smartphone dilemma for users and employers.

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LG and VMWare are teaming up to offer what might be the ideal solution for Android phones – virtualized smartphone operating systems. Most users know virtualization as a way to run two different computer operating systems on one system (usually simultaneously) such as Windows 7 and Linux or Mac OS X. The same concept can be used for smartphone, however.

In this case, an LG phone owned by an employee would be outfitted with whatever apps and settings he or she wants. Games, access to public Wi-Fi, personal email accounts, text messaging to the kids, and so on. However, a second complete Android configuration for work could be setup (business apps, internal network security settings, VPN access, confidential data, even a separate phone number) that the user can use either in the office or at home. This second configuration would live inside an app that is secured so that it is inaccessible if that app isn't running, the user, someone who's stolen the phone, and even the external "real" Android OS can't access its data or features.

This scenario is pretty easy to achieve in and PC world and VMWare is a leader in virtualization technology for both consumers (such as the VMWare Fusion product that let's Mac users run Windows alongside their Mac apps) and enterprise (where the technology is applied to servers to add security, improve performance, and reduce costs).

The concept could, quite frankly, be an ideal solution for both users and employers. It might not replace the various smartphone management solutions, but it could easily work with them and create a very secure and yet employee-friendly option.

Ironically, LG and VMWare are choosing to pioneer this concept with Android, which is popular with consumers but which many IT departments are hesitant to work with because of enterprise security concerns. The companies have stated that they may more to other platforms is demand exists, though as smartphone platforms aren't open source in nature the way Android is, this might not be an easy sell to the folks at RIM, Apple, or Microsoft (though these companies could probably develop similar features if they choose). This could eve give Android an interesting competitive advantage in some workplaces.

Whether VMWare will extend this concept to other manufacturers as well as other platforms isn't so certain. Certainly, it gives LG a significant advantage over other Android vendors if they can maintain an exclusive relationship.

What do you think? Are you willing to use your smartphone in the workplace? If so, how willing are you to submit to corporate control or monitoring of it? Would this make you switch to Android or an LG handset? Let us know in the comments.

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