Red Bend, which makes products for delivering over-the-air software updates, will soon offer a virtualisation technology for Android devices that allows a user to have both a personal profile and a business profile on the same device.
Red Bend isn't saying yet who it is working with to deliver the offering. Because its product is a type 1 hypervisor, it needs to convince chip makers to include the software in their chipsets.
But since its software update technology is embedded in many leading chipsets, it already has relationships with the silicon companies, said Lori Sylvia, Red Bend's vice president of marketing. She offered a sneak peek at the virtualisation technology on the sidelines of the CTIA Enterprise and Applications conference in San Diego.
Red Bend's technology will run two full versions of Android on a phone, she said. The setup invites criticism because it's likely to impact performance on a phone designed to run just one OS. But Sylvia said the software is designed to allocate resources such that users won't find that it degrades performance.
Dual home screens
She demonstrated PC software that IT administrators would use to push a work profile out to users. Administrators will be able to push out the OS, plus additional enterprise applications, to individuals or groups of users. The user receives a text message about the new software and downloads it over the air.
Once the software is installed, the user sees an icon on the home screen that might say My Office, or whatever the business decides to name it. Clicking the icon takes the user to a different home screen that includes the business apps. An enterprise can set the home screen image on the office side of the phone and can exclude services such as the Android Market.
Red Bend is working on the notification engine, which will determine how users will be alerted if, for instance, they are using the personal side of the phone and receive an email on the work side of the phone, Sylvia said.
She demonstrated listening to a podcast on the My Office side. When she toggled to the personal side, the podcast continued to run but she could no longer hear it. She could, however, open a music player and play music on the personal side of the phone. The demonstration showed that the two versions of Android share a single set of audio drivers but can continue to work simultaneously.
Interest in running dual personas on a single device appears to be growing. Earlier this week AT&T introduced a service it is calling Toggle that uses technology from Enterproid. Enterproid does not use virtualisation technology but instead runs applications like email and a browser in a secure sandbox.
"A sandbox is a patch. It's a short-term solution," according to Sylvia.
The shortcoming with a sandbox is that applications must be written specially to run in the secure area. With virtualisation like that from Red Bend, any application written for Android can run on the business side of the phone. Administrators can limit the kinds of applications available there, reducing the likelihood of malware infecting corporate data.
Samsung and LG have both said they'll make phones running a hypervisor from VMware, as a way of creating a phone with two operating environments. Open Kernel Labs is offering tools to developers that would let individual applications run in virtual machines.