HP's acquisition of Phoenix virtualization assets adds to its Linux muscle

The virtualization products could also expand HP's mobile market and propel the company with instant-on technology

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HP's acquisition of these Phoenix virtualization assets could add some additional muscle to HP's already growing list of Linux assets. In late April, HP announced its plans to acquire Palm, the creator of such smartphones as the Palm Pre and Pixi; and the maker of the Palm webOS, an operating system for mobile devices, in the amount of $1.2 billion. WebOS is built on top of the Linux kernel with Palm's proprietary software.

Because the Palm acquisition has yet to close, HP is remaining silent on specific plans for how it will use the Palm technology. However, it is believed that HP will use it across a wide range of new mobile devices. If so, the new technologies from Phoenix could fit very well within those plans.

Even though it isn't quite clear yet what HP intends to do with this list of acquired technologies, there are a few things that do seem clear. Instant-on technology remains one of the Holy Grails of client-side technologies in the world of business. The Linux market is continuing to pick up steam out there, with Ubuntu gaining more and more attention as a viable platform of choice followed by Android becoming a widely popular and fast growing OS for the mobile market.

While HP has not disclosed its reasons for the Phoenix virtualization asset acquisition, there are several possibilities for this move. The company already ships high-end notebooks with a SplashTop-based instant-on technology from DeviceVM called QuickWeb. (In May, Phoenix Technologies resolved a litigation dispute that it had filed against DeviceVM for patent infringement.) By acquiring its own instant-on solution, HP could roll out a highly customized version across a much broader selection of its own PC lineup.

HP also appears to be enhancing its mobile PC and smart device strategy. The acquisition of the Phoenix virtualization product lines could prove to be a nice fit within the company's future Palm strategy. During a Webcast at the time of the Palm acquisition, HP said it not only saw a $100 billion smartphone market, but a chance to apply Palm's assets toward additional connected mobile platforms. HP could be planning on using HyperSpace with webOS and running the two side-by-side with Windows on the company's netbooks, notebooks, and tablets, which could be a huge differentiator in the market for the company. This could be a big win for HP, if done correctly, what with the mobile tablet PC market becoming even more enticing for manufacturers given the initial success Apple has been having with its iPad device.

Can HP succeed where Phoenix couldn't? Let's face it, $12 million is a drop in the bucket for HP to experiment with these virtualized assets. It's a low-risk and inexpensive purchase when compared to the $1.2 billion price tag the company paid for Palm. When you combine these technologies with other HP assets, HP can have a much broader vision and deployment mechanism, which Phoenix just can't claim.

But HP won't be alone in the instant-on market. In addition to DeviceVM mentioned above, other companies are jumping into the game to explore this new frontier. Canonical has taken up this challenge with Ubuntu and is building the technology into a new desktop experience called Unity. Google has also indicated interest in this market and could possibly make Chrome OS a challenger at some point.

As far as mobile phone technology goes, don't forget that VMware, the virtualization market leader, is still working on its own technology to allow a single mobile phone device to be configured with multiple virtual mobile phone OSes or applications as well.

So come on HP, let the cat out of the bag already! What's your vision here?

This article, "HP's acquisition of Phoenix virtualization assets adds to its Linux muscle," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Marshall's Virtualization Report blog and follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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