Verizon, VMware team on dual-persona phone software

The system will separate personal and business uses of mobile handsets, helping employees bring their devices into the workplace

Verizon Wireless will announce dual-persona software with partner EMC VMware later this week, closely following AT&T in unveiling a way to separate mobile handsets into business and personal segments.

Verizon's dual-persona system will be available for more than one major mobile operating system and will complement the carrier's Private Applications Store for Business, announced on Monday.

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Offering both will give enterprises more options for securing the applications and data that their employees use, said Janet Schijns, vice president of Verizon's Business Solutions Group.

Dual-persona systems have been gaining traction slowly but appear ready to make a leap forward this week as the U.S. mobile industry gathers for the CTIA Enterprise & Applications trade show in San Diego. VMware tapped into its enterprise virtualization expertise to announce a mobile hypervisor late last year. On Monday, AT&T announced a service called Toggle, based on technology from Enterproid, which will set up dual personas on mobile devices running Version 2.2 and later of the Google Android OS. It is scheduled to be available by the end of this year.

Offering only a dual-persona system could force enterprises to port their existing apps to another OS or adapt them to work with the segmented device software, so Verizon will also offer private app stores that work on any mobile OS and any carrier, Schijns said.

The Private Applications Store for Business lets businesses create app stores with just the devices their employees or partners need, tuned for the privileges and needs of specific departments and users. They can include both internally and externally developed apps, and IT administrators can pull apps from the store or make them inaccessible on a user's device when necessary, Schijns said.

Enterprises will give users access to the store by sending them a link to a password-protected site, she said. Users on any carrier could get to the store and find apps for all OSes in one place. This cross-carrier compatibility is necessary in companies with bring-your-own-device policies, where employees may come in with devices on any number of carriers, she said. "If you're really going to offer choice, you have to be able to use any carrier, any OS," Schijns said, in a clear dig at rival AT&T.

The Private Applications Store for Business will be publicly demonstrated at CTIA and commercially launched later this year, Verizon said. Offering a private app store will cost substantially less than $5 per user, per month, Schijns said.

Carriers and third-party software vendors are trying to define how enterprises will control the mobile devices their employees use as companies start to get serious about both developing and buying mobile productivity applications, according to Forrester Research analyst Christian Kane. "I think it's going to be a much higher priority for firms in 2012," Kane said. Organizations began by letting employees access company email and contacts on their own devices, but to get beyond that they are seeking stronger control, he said. Meanwhile, apps developed for consumers, such as the note-taking software Evernote, are being used by employees but may be outside of corporate IT's control.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for the IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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