Virtualisation Leads Mobile Trends For 2011

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The most significant enabler of mobile innovation in 2011 will be virtualisation, according to OK Labs’ Steve Subar

Even in the face of the ongoing global financial crisis, the mobile/wireless industry experienced huge growth and reinvention in 2010. Worldwide handset volumes soared to more than 1.3 billion units, over 20 percent of them smartphones. Mobile applications and app stores dominated the headlines, with mobile developers attaining rock star status among geeks and consumers alike.

The coming year, 2011, promises new waves of invention and innovation, building on the trends of 2010 while opening new avenues for business and technology. This article highlights key mobile trends for 2011.

Virtualisation, end-to-end

Most predictions for 2011 highlight evolved cloud computing as the game-changer for the coming year. However, the impact of a robust and ubiquitous cloud is mostly indirect for mobile/wireless: it gives developers and enterprise IT the option of continuing an application-centric mobile strategy or of (re)turning to thin clients using HTML5 or enablers like Citrix Receiver. It also means that mobile workers will be able to connect transparently to corporate data centres or their cloud-based equivalents.

It is axiomatic that cloud computing is enabled by virtualisation at multiple levels: hardware virtualisation, platform virtualisation, and application virtualisation (H/P/SaaS). Moreover, we are already seeing virtualisation of enterprise desktops as well as increasingly ubiquitous desktop-hosted virtualisation for interoperability. In 2011, the paradigm of end-to-end virtualisation will also encompass mobile end-points to meet enterprise, government, SMB, and end user needs for security, interoperability, and cost-savings.

Enterprise mobility

In 2010, enterprise employees increasingly worked outside corporate headquarters yielding enhanced productivity from use of mobile computing and communications, sourced both from traditional IT channels and from end user acquisition (BYOD). A new meme, enterprise mobility encapsulates this trend, highlighting key requirements from enterprise IT, especially for device security.

The coming year will see a tipping point for enterprise mobility, where organisations previously prohibiting mobile access to corporate assets will sanction and support it. The biggest challenge will still be security, and tools for sustaining enterprise mobility will include mobile versions of existing end point security paradigms (anti-virus, device wipe, etc.), mobile device management (MDM) suites, with underlying architectural innovation based on mobile virtualisation.

Mass market smartphones

In 2010, worldwide smartphone deployments are expected to top 250 million units. While this volume might constitute a burgeoning mass-market phenomenon, relatively pricey smartphones remain beyond the reach (or discretion) of most consumers.

In 2011, smartphone sales won’t just continue to grow – volumes will take off along a hockey-stick trajectory. Enhancing organic segment growth will be sharp declines in acquisition costs: OEMs will be able to build and sell cheaper smartphones through dramatic reductions in handset Bills-of-Material (BoM) – the hundreds of hardware components and software line items needed to manufacture these devices.

By consolidating multiple legacy chipsets (for baseband, application processing, etc.) onto a single mainstream ARM CPU, handset manufacturers (OEMs) can ship leaner, meaner devices – smartphone functionality at featurephone prices. Critical to BoM consolidation is mobile virtualisation, lending hardware independence to mobile platforms and enabling diverse legacy software to run on a single CPU.

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