We've had virtual storage, virtual machines and virtual data centres now VMware is looking to the next frontier: the virtual mobile phone.

The company has announced the mobile virtualisation platform (MVP) aimed at handset vendors to enable mobile users to choose between two different platforms or phone numbers on a single handset.

Speaking at the VMworld conference, VMware chief technology officer Steve Herrod said that it would enable users who had separate phones for work and for home to be able to use both phones from a single device.
"The way that I envisage it working would be that IT departments would outline a set of policies and particular software build.

In essence, this means that users would be able bring any device into the workplace and the IT team could use that device to include any particular workplace policies. "It could even be the case that one device could have multiple operating systems running so that you see Symbian and Android in a single view," Herrod said.

The software for MVP is as a result of the VMware acquisition of a French company Trango Software. Herrod said that although MVP has sprouted from Trango's original work, there had been a VMware team working with them to fully incorporate into VMware's product line.

He said that the software was now available for handset vendors to look at now but couldn't specify when products might be available as that was in the hands of the vendors.

Herrod warned that there were still some issues to be tackled. "Power management is a big issue. We've done power management on the desktop but nothing like to the amount we've have to do on the mobile phone."

There are other issues to be tackled however. Julia Austin, senior director for R&D said that one of the biggest challenges was working with carriers. "I think it depends who you're talking to: some welcome the opportunity to simplify the software process, some are more defensive." She said that billing in particular could prove to be hurdle to overcome, although again she said that some carriers were more responsive than others.

One application where MVP could prove to be useful is for users who have multiple SIM cards from different countries' operators. "Think of it as a way of putting a new SIM card into your phone when you change country - without needing a SIM card," she said.