Virtualization on Mobile Devices: What's Taking So Long?

VMware and Citrix are preparing for the day when you'll want a personal VM and work VM on your smartphone -- but it's taking a while. Here's a look at what's in the pipeline and what's been slowing down progress.

Despite years of marketing pressure and products that are simpler to use and more widely available, desktop virtualization hasn't taken off to the extent that vendors and analysts expected even a few years ago.

The bring-your-own-device movement among end users, on the other hand, has lit a fire under the market for mobile device virtualization.

A survey released last month by telecommunications giant Mitel showed 90 percent of respondents expected virtualization to become more important in their companies, with the priority being first in mobile phones, second in cloud computing and third in desktop computing.

A Frost & Sullivan survey released in this week showed that only 5 percent of the 18.3 million tablets sold in 2010 were used in business, but that number could reach 30 percent by 2015. A June, 2010 Frost & Sullivan survey showed 49 percent of respondents expect tablets and smartphones to become the end-user computing platform of choice within a few years.

Unfortunately, the number of virtualization products available to connect those devices securely to corporate networks is far thinner than it appears from the marketing and hype surrounding the technology, says Ian Song, research analyst at IDC.

"Virtualization on mobile devices requires some pretty low-level coding, especially because there are so many kinds of hardware and firmware, and it changes pretty fast," Song says. "Even if you're going to stick with just Android, like VMware plans to do, there are already a lot of different versions, and another comes every three or four months."

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