The feds' shift to Android could give it a big business boost, too

Defense contractor General Dynamics links up with Samsung and HTC to make off-the-shelf Android secure

It was the kind of late-afternoon announcement most people missed and probably would have passed on anyhow: Defense contractor General Dynamics bought Open Kernel Labs, a small mobile virtualization vendor known best (if at all) for its collaboration with Citrix Systems on Project Nirvana, which let cellphones run two operating systems separately via virtualization. Consumers saw this technology at work in the Motorola Atrix 4G and its Lapdock.

But it's a big deal at several levels, one that could lead to an Android-dominated federal government and even reverse iOS's dominance in business.

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Here's why:

  1. The federal government -- not just the military and espionage wings -- is serious about adopting modern mobile technology and shifting more government employees to work-at-home (telework) scenarios involving use of personal equipment. It's the consumerization of government.
  2. A large segment of the private sector -- including aerospace, financial services, utilities, and health care -- are bound up in or bound by severe data management and separation requirements. That's created a clash with today's Internet-connected, work-anywhere, information-flow-based world.
  3. The larger IT community is beginning to realize that managing devices alone rather than the information flowing among them is at best a Band-Aid and at worst a fool's errand. Plenty of information-separation technologies are available, but they're a patchwork of partial, nascent solutions. A strict, virtually separated approach might better address the information-flow concerns.

Open Kernel Labs is at the center of these trends, and it now has a large powerhouse company behind it, thanks to General Dynamics, whcih has lots of government contracts around information security, radio networks (it's building the national LTE network for police and other emergency responders), and transportation systems. In return, OK Labs brings partnerships with HTC and Samsung that should open real doors in both government and business.

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