Myriad has announced new software called Alien Dalvik which will allow Android applications to run on non-Android phones. The software will be demonstrated live for the first time next week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.Mobile technology company
Although Myriad may not be a household name, the company is also the maker of virtual machine software called Dalvik Turbo, which was introduced last year as way to speed up the performance of Android applications by up to three times, while also improving battery life on Android phones. This latest release builds on top of that technology and will be available for the MeeGo platform later this year, with other platforms to follow.
What's Mobile Virtualization?
Mobile virtualization is developing area in the mobile industry, with obvious possibilities in the enterprise space where mobile phones are more and more often serving as end points for enterprise applications. As with PC/server virtualization scenarios, mobile virtualization also offers the benefits of increased security and reliability as well as the ability to lock in data that comes from running apps in virtual environments instead of directly on the device.
As ReadWriteWeb's Alex Williams noted last fall, mobile virtualization is why President Barack Obama can use a BlackBerry - the highly locked-down apps are run in a virtual environment where they're protected from security threats and break-ins.
It also means that corporate employees could bring their own phones to work, filled with the personal, "fun" apps they enjoy, while still meeting the needs of I.T.
But on the consumer side of the equation, mobile virtualization could allow applications from one mobile platform to run on another. In this case, with the Alien Dalvik software, it means Android apps can run on MeeGo and other platforms.
Android Apps on Nokia MeeGo Phones...Very Interesting
For Nokia, which has been planning on introducing high-end handsets running the smartphone operating system MeeGo, the possibilities are intriguing. This would mean that Nokia customers would not only have access to the MeeGo-ready apps sold through Nokia's own app marketplace, the Ovi Store, but they could also run many of the nearly 200,000 Android applications available today. (Myriad says "the majority" of Android apps can run unmodified, without comprising performance. We'll see if that's true next week at Mobile World Congress!)
For the end user - the mobile consumer - it means they wouldn't be limited to choosing a phone or tablet based on what apps its software operating system runs by default, but could pick the device whose hardware they preferred, whose user interface looked the best, or any other of a number of factors, and still have access to the large ecosystem of Android apps thanks to virtualization.
For example, there are already rumors that RIM's upcoming PlayBook tablet will use a Dalvik virtual machine to run Android apps on the BlackBerry operating system.
To demonstrate the technology in action, Myriad says it will show off Alien Dalvik running on a Nokia N900, which isn't actually a MeeGo device, but rather a Maemo-based one. Nokia's Maemo is sort of a precursor to MeeGo, as it and Intel's Moblin OS merged to form the forthcoming MeeGo OS.
You can see the video demo of Alien Dalvik here on YouTube now.
This news is especially interesting in light of recent developments at Nokia, and the speculation that it will partner with Microsoft to offer phones built with Nokia hardware, but running Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. As an alternative, this virtual machine software could instead allow Nokia to continue as planned with their MeeGo initiatives, but launch devices that had immediate access to Android apps. Maybe Nokia will surprise us and do both those things.
Note: We've reached out to Myriad for some additional details on this news, specifically if it has plans to make partnership announcements of any kind at MWC. We'll update when we hear back.
Update: Myriad tells us it's in talks with several suppliers at the moment but cannot yet say if they will be announcing partnerships at MWC at this time. Regarding the extent of Nokia's involvement during the testing of the VM software on the N900, Myriad said "our activities with Nokia, as with our other customers, are commercially sensitive and so we are unfortunately unable to answer this question for you."