The days of companies in non-regulated markets conducting business strictly on a desktop, laptop or thin-client computer within a closed network are pretty much history.
With an increasing number of personal devices handling business-related data through social networking and other channels, more and more sensitive corporate information is trickling into iPhones, BlackBerrys, netbooks and tablets that in a perfect world wouldn’t be stored there.
The decaying borders between business and personal worlds are causing major-league headaches for IT administrators and security experts, who are now scrambling for new ways for employees to use their own devices for both home and business and yet keep sensitive data secure.
That’s where VMware and smartphone maker LG came to the rescue Dec. 7.
Using end-user virtualization software from VMware, the two companies have formed a partnership to build a new generation of LG smartphones with a separate corporate identity and e-mail account, distinct from the user’s personal account.
The new workspace on the LG phones will appear as an application amid the other functions, but it is really is its own secure entity unencumbered by personal applications. The corporate environment includes e-mail, contacts, an attachment viewer, and document editing for starters; other functions can be added.
“The diversity of devices coming into the enterprise is skyrocketing,” VMware Senior Director Mobile Solutions Srinivas Krishnamurti told eWEEK. “You have Macs coming in, you have iPads, iPhones, smartphones, etcetera. Fundamentally, end-user computing is changing pretty dramatically in the enterprise market.
“The goal for us-and what users want-is to make this a secure workspace that is accessible from any device anywhere at any time. That’s the end result we want.”
Click here to view a Quicktime video demonstration of the LG-VMware phone.
Numerous companies already have corporate standards for devices, whether it be a BlackBerry, a specific mobile phone or a netbook or tablet, and don’t want-or know how to-manage personal devices. With employees already coming to work with their own devices that work just fine but represent security problems, the problem of having to juggle multiple devices also has become an issue.
“The way to think about this is, we’re going to build phones with multiple profiles-one for home use, one for business use. The corporate phone is completely managed by IT, your personal things remain personal, and they both reside on the same device,” Krishnamurti said.
One device, two separate profiles-and two phone numbers
“It’s like taking your iPhone and your BlackBerry and gluing them together. You will have one device with two separate profiles.”
Krishnamurti and LG Director of Strategy and Business Development James Park weren’t specific about how the new phones would work or how they would be priced; the main news Dec. 7 was the partnership and the intention to provide these phones.
They did tell eWEEK that the phones should be coming into the U.S. market in the first or second quarter of 2011.
Two Identities, Two Emails, Two Phone Numbers
The telecoms are going to like this part: These new LG-produced phones will be capable of carrying two phone numbers-thus two different phone bills.
“The technology we’re building is much more in tune with a workstation or fusion product,” Krishnamurti said. “The work phone will run locally on the device, not in the cloud, like VMware View does.
“With View, we virtualize your desktop and put it out in the data center, and you can access it from any device that you have,” he said. “That’s certainly very critical to our strategy. But in this initiative, the actual phone environment will run locally. You will have two different phone environments running side by side. You will have two [phone] numbers. Both numbers are active. You have two different e-mails, both active.
“Like I said: It’s almost as if you took two phones and glued them together,” Krishnamurti said.
The two sides of the phone will be able to be used concurrently. For example, a user might be listening to his music player on his personal profile, yet want to send a business email on the corporate profile. No problem; the music player works in the background while the email is written and sent.
Same with phone calls. If a personal call comes in while the user is talking on the corporate side, the user can put one person on hold and talk to the other. This could get complicated, but it seems to be what users want.
Other vendors have slightly different approaches
LG isn’t the only phone maker that’s into this. While the enterprise space has in recent years been the domain of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, a number of smartphone makers are taking note of the opportunities beyond the consumer market.
The Nokia E73, which began shipping in June, features a Switch Mode that lets users shift between their work and home lives. It supports Microsoft Mail for Exchange and Active Sync (as well as the ability to switch between cellular and WiFi calling).
More recently, and more literally looking to replace RIM, Texas PC maker Dell, a relative newcomer to the smartphone space, announced intentions to transition its 25,000 employees from BlackBerry devices to Dell smartphones. It additionally plans to begin marketing a service to help other businesses do the same.
A likely candidate to replace the BlackBerry devices is the Dell Venue Pro, which runs Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 operating system and features a 4.1-inch multi-touch display with a slide-out QWERTY keypad. It will begin shipping Dec. 9.
eWEEK reporter Michelle Maisto contributed to this story.