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Summary:

ARM’s new Eagle processor core is pretty darn exciting. Who wouldn’t want five times the performance at the same power consumption as today’s chips? But the core also supports virtualization on a chip, which could soon change the way you handle your phone.

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Coming soon, a phone for work and play.

ARM’s new Eagle processor core is pretty darn exciting. Who wouldn’t want five times the performance at the same power consumption as today’s chips? Plus, with the success of the iPhone and iPad, more and more software is now written for ARM chips, meaning that the x86 software advantage is waning, especially for consumers. In the Eagle announcement, ARM supports virtualization on a chip, something most folks associate with servers, but it will soon change the way you handle your phone.

The benefits of virtualizing a mobile phone were laid out in a Texas Instruments blog (TI licences ARM cores for its application processors inside phones):

Hardware virtualization opens up a whole new opportunity to efficiently take advantage of multiple, simultaneous operating environments. This could be used to support independent corporate and personal environments or multiple operating systems that provide unique experiences or services. VirtualLogix gave a glimpse of this future mobile virtualization this week by showcasing three mobile operating systems (Android 2.2, ChromeOS and Ubuntu Linux) running simultaneously on the TI OMAP 4 Blaze™ mobile development platform (MDP). By leveraging the Cortex-A15 hardware support, the virtualization experience can be enhanced with improved performance and security.

Since the phone is the new computer, and folks seem unwilling to carry two of the things around (not to mention they’re expensive to buy service for), one big promise of virtualization is toting your work life and your personal life on one handset–or iPad. We’ve all experienced the pain of having a work and personal laptop and trying to synch files between them, and IT departments are currently trying to handle the influx of personal phones in the office, so creating a controllable “office-safe” environment on a handset is promising. How promising? Well, earlier this week, Red Bend Software bought VirtualLogix, a company that makes a hypervisor for phones, in order to make handset virtualization palatable for enterprises. TI was an investor in VirtualLogix.

With faster chips built on the latest ARM processor — and the proliferation of smartphone-toting executives and middle managers who no longer want to weigh down their pockets and purses with a BlackBerry and an iPhone– the virtualization hooks built into the Eagle core are pretty sweet. For those wondering, VMware, the original hypervisor, has an interest in virtualizing handsets, too. There’s also a lot of promise in using virtualization to take feature phones up a notch to give them app stores or smartphone-like functionality. HipLogic, which has raised money from Bay Partners and Benchmark Capital, provides such a service with its virtualization software. For more on this topic, check out our panel at our upcoming Mobilize Event in San Francisco, where folks from VMware and RedBend Software will lay out the future of your virtualized handset.

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d): For Phones, the Future Is Multiple Cores

  1. Android’s increasing marketshare will mean that it will be the dominant mobile platform for virtualization

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  2. Don’t forget Open Kernel Labs, the other participant in the
    virtualization panel at the GigaOm Mobilize Event! Looking forward to hearing what these mobile virtualization industry leaders have to say.

    Trish

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