VMware, Verizon Split Mobile Personalities

VMware and Verizon on Wednesday jointly announced the availability of VMware Horizon Mobile, a dual persona solution designed to segregate corporate and personal information, on the LG Intuition and Motorola Razr M smartphones used by Verizon Enterprise customers.

The dual persona system establishes a separate workspace for corporate data, while personal information remains separate and secure.

“VMware Horizon Mobile applies VMware’s proven virtualization technology to create a virtualized operating system on Android smartphones, offering a simple and easy way to run corporate information on devices … controlled and managed by IT,” said VMware spokesperson Angela D’Arcy.

The dual persona software will be offered to corporations for US$125 per user for a perpetual license.

“The VMware Horizon Mobile solution on Verizon’s Android smartphones provides a simplified way to enable employees to bring their personal mobile devices to work but still empower the enterprise with the control and the manageability over employee access to corporate resources,” said Verizon spokesperson Paul Macchia.

Double Identity

VMware is not the only company to offer a dual identity option — Samsung already offers a similar solution — but the VMware and Verizon offering could persuade more business IT departments to embrace the idea of allowing Android into the workplace.

“Android is great in the consumer side of the marketplace; however business thinks it is still weak on security. This is a move to strengthen Android security on the business side,” said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan.

The benefits to businesses could extend beyond security, with potential cost savings as an additional incentive.

“VMware has been promoting this Android solution for years now,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst at IHS iSuppli.

“The marketplace has change dramatically recently with Samsung’s SAFE and KNOX platforms. The benefit of something like VMware’s dual-persona Android approach is clearly to extend corporate data manageability to the Android platform, and this gives companies more choices in applications — and usually a lower cost-of-ownership compared to a BlackBerry implementation,” he pointed out.

“Most corporations will likely be swayed by Samsung’s value proposition and the fact that KNOX has much stronger security features that rivals that of BlackBerry,” Lam told TechNewsWorld. “The story [could be] more on how VMware can differentiate itself in their Android offerings from those of Samsung KNOX.”

Blocking BlackBerry

BlackBerry has long been the preferred choice of IT departments due to its security creds, but in the age of BYOD — bring your own device — it is clear that IT departments are increasingly accepting alternatives. However, it’s not immediately obvious why the Razr and Intuition were the first Verizon handsets to get VMware’s dual persona treatment.

“When a company is running a BYOD program, neither solution is really doing the trick, as it doesn’t let the consumer bring any device they might want to chose,” said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

However, “the Motorola Razr has probably a bigger installed base than the new BlackBerries right now,” he noted.

It’s apparent that Verizon and VMware are taking a page from the BlackBerry playbook by allowing separate work and personal profiles on a single device.

“This dual persona solution makes sense as a way to expand this thinking to other devices beyond just BlackBerry,” said Kagan.

“The new BlackBerry model to have two separate sides of the device for personal and work use seems like a good direction, and the entire industry [might] move in this direction,” he added. “This seems to be a trend that is developing to satisfy the business appetite.”

Handset Duality

The dual persona concept might spread to more devices as IT departments become more comfortable with it — especially as BlackBerry, even with stronger security, isn’t likely to satisfy the masses who have flocked to Android.

“VMware will expand the number of devices their software will run on,” Entner said.

However, that still leaves out one large piece of the puzzle.

“If the solution doesn’t work on the iPhone, it faces a significant gap,” observed Entner. “BYOD as long as your device is a BlackBerry isn’t BYOD.”

That said, the widening availability of dual persona solutions for Android phones could be enough to ruin Thorsten Hein’s plans for BlackBerry, assuming IT departments do get — and remain — on board.

“BlackBerry has an advantage since they had this feature first, and they have an advantage since from a security point of view they are still king of the hill,” Kagan acknowledged.

“However,” he added, “as time goes by, if every other handset also offers this kind of feature, that BlackBerry advantage will weaken.”

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