VMware puts mobile at heart of post-PC world

VMware has detailed two projects and brought out a series of software updates to prepare for the 'post-PC world', where the focus is on applications and not hardware

VMware has introduced a set of technologies behind the company's plans to adapt to what it calls the 'post-PC world', including Project AppBlast and Project Octopus.

Steve Herrod at VMworld

VMware's chief technology officer Steven Herrod outlined some of the company's plans for the 'post-PC' world at VMworld in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Photo credit: Jay Greene/CNET News

AppBlast, announced on Tuesday, aims to ensure the "universal delivery of any application" to any device that supports HTML 5, VMware's chief technology officer for end-user computing, Scott Davis, wrote in a blog post. HTML 5 is a coding framework for building dynamic and interactive web applications. It is compatible with the current crop of mobile devices based on the iOS, Android and Windows Phone operating systems, and others.

"[AppBlast is] about unlocking the data and the services in an organisation. An IT department's job is to take data, store it and give it back to people," VMware's EMEA cloud technologist Joe Baguley told ZDNet UK. "I think we have got very good at putting it into boxes. What we need to do now is make it available to people." The technology could also be used to put non-HTML 5 applications, such as SAP data analytics, onto users' mobile devices via HTML 5, according to VMware.

Project Octopus, also announced on Tuesday, is aimed at enterprise data syncing and sharing.

"This service is about certainly letting you keep your known files intact... but it's also about sharing it with others," VMware's chief technology officer, Stephen Herrod, said in a keynote speech on Tuesday. VMware expects the Octopus technology, which draws from VMware Zimbra and Mozy products, will be used by organisations to share data internally and externally, and to sync data across disparate devices.

Project Octopus and Project AppBlast are in development and there are no firm dates for when products from the projects will appear.

Post-PC world

In a keynote speech at VMworld, chief executive Paul Maritz said that mobile devices are expected to supersede the PC for individual work use.

This post-PC world is one where applications are tied to individuals rather than to their hardware, he said on Monday. Windows and associated applications are hosted in the cloud and served on an as-needed basis to mobiles, tablets, PCs and other devices, and businesses share data internally and externally using enterprise-grade security.

"In the last 10 or 15 years, the Windows desktop has played two roles. On the one hand it's been the interface to Windows. On the other hand it's been the way via which applications were controlled," Maritz told attendees in Las Vegas. "In a post-PC world, that second aspect of the desktop can't belong to any one device or any one operating system."

The shift is already happening, Maritz said, pointing to the increasing trend for people to bring their own devices into enterprises — the consumerisation of IT — and the growing popularity among developers of automated platforms-as-a-service (PaaS), such as Google App Engine or VMware's own Cloud Foundry.

"The PC generation was about how we could automate the life of a white-collar worker, circa 1975," Maritz said. "[But these days] people under the age of 35 don't sit behind desks and don't spend their time lovingly tending to a few tens or hundreds of documents.

What this cloud era represents is the next major interaction between the consumerisation of IT on the one hand and the tradition of enterprise IT on the other.

– Paul Maritz, VMware

"What you do on these new devices is not the same as what you did on the old PC."

VMware's thinking is echoed by others: in August, one of the designers of IBM's first PC, Mark Dean, wrote a blog post saying the platform was due to dwindle into technological irrelevance.

"What this cloud era represents is the next major interaction between the consumerisation of IT on the one hand and the tradition of enterprise IT on the other," Maritz said. "This synthesis will redefine IT over the coming decade."

"How do we begin? By making Windows more manageable and more successful," Herrod said in his keynote. "If we can encapsulate this [Windows] desktop in a manageable form and break its ties to individual pieces of hardware, this is going to make it more manageable and more secure."

Software updates

However, a series of updates to desktop virtualisation and identity brokerage software outlined on Tuesday are designed to help VMware meet the post-PC shift in the shorter term.

The company has made changes to its desktop virtualisation product, VMware View, to prepare it for serving more dynamic applications to a range of devices. For example, the communication protocol upgrades in the new VMware View 5 promise to yield a 75-percent bandwidth improvement over LAN and WAN connections, according to the company. Desktop management has also been tweaked to make it easier to manage fleets of Windows machines.

Updates are also coming for VMware View mobile device apps — such as those for the iPad, the Android operating system and Cisco Cius — alongside an increase in the number of supported devices.

VMware View 5 will be available "in the coming weeks", the company said. Pricing for the enterprise edition will start at $150 (£92) per concurrent connection, and the premier edition at $250 per concurrent connection.

VMware Horizon

Another product to get a refresh was VMware Horizon, which provides identity brokerage in the cloud, right down to diverse mobile devices. "VMware Horizon is our attempt to create this new capability to allow IT to provision and associate applications with people and not devices," Maritz said in his speech.

The software can now manage access, deployment and updates to virtual Windows applications, no matter what the device or the underlying operating system, according to VMware. In practice, this means an administrator can assign a range of applications to an individual, and these applications will be delivered over the network to whatever device they are logged in on, be it a desktop, a smartphone or another kind of mobile device.

Sticking with the focus on non-PC devices, VMware gave further details on its mobile virtualisation efforts. It announced a new deal with Samsung, which joins LG in agreeing to work VMware technology into Android devices. VMware hopes eventually its mobile hypervisor will sit on people's handsets and be used to provide a secure, isolated phone environment where they can store their corporate applications, without having to have two separate phones.

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