China wholesaler preps mobile OS with a twist: apps run in cloud, not on gadget

Putting resource-intensive processes in cloud makes stupid phones look smart


It's also why Citrix is laughing maniacally as it adds even more devices to the long list of gadgets that Citrix Receiver can turn into mobile clients for corporate apps, especially those running on XenServer or Windows Server 2008, which compete with VMware's core products.

That doesn't mean it's always a good idea to put too much of an app in the cloud when the client is a comparatively stupid mobile device whose connection to the network – let alone its steadily high-bandwidth connection – is spotty.

Many iOS and Android apps already count on instant access to the network for current data without which the apps would be useless – weather apps for example, or GPS or voice-to-text transcriptions.

Most virtualized setups also rely on server-based data, security and processing power. Often what the end user sees is the image of a remotely hosted app that stores minimal data for authentication, personalization or display in the phone's cache or memory.

By encrypting data within VPNs, the connection is secure, but the hypervisor that lives on the phone to create a second, secure operating system to support the connection sucks up a lot of resources that are very limited on most phones.

They also run pretty slow on those one- and two-bar network-connection days, especially if the graphics are particularly rich or the apps require a lot of data to be sent back and forth.

With the unknown but largely suspect new versions of apps users would put on phones running a completely new operating system, it's virtually certain many of those apps would suck the life out of users waiting for them to respond or brick the phones they run on.

The first version of the OS will be aimed at Chinese users and China-based apps, according to the WSJ story, but it could expand if it turns out to be a good competitor for iOS and Android.

If you make smartphones, mobile OSes or apps, Alibaba is now a player you need to watch. If you run mobile apps or networks for corporate IT, you don't have to think much about Alibaba right now.

If it makes the cut in China it will expand into the non-Kanji market pretty quickly, though iOS and Android have such a lead in marketshare and app support it's hard to see Alibaba getting anywhere.

Unless it built in the kind of security and virtualization support that already comes with mobile virtualization products, the new OS won't get anywhere as a mobile-virtualization platform. Not quickly, anyway.

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