Vodafone to launch dual-purpose mobile client

Vodafone is working on away for business customers to compartmentalise their personal and business mobile applications.

Nick Webb, head of solutions marketing at Vodafone Global Enterprise (VGE), said that the company is currently conducting trials on dual-persona, and hopes to make the technology available to customers later this year.

Dual persona, also known as mobile virtualisation, is a way to enable the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution.

It works in the same way as desktop virtualisation, using a hypervisor to support multiple domains on the same hardware.

Users can retaining privacy and control of their personal mobile environments through having all their enterprise data and applications provisioned and managed by the IT department.

They can create a separate domain for all their personal applications, games and contacts.

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Other mobile operators are also along the way to offering similar services. Telefónica, parent company of UK mobile operator O2, announced plans earlier this year to launch a dual persona service, powered by VMware's Horizon Mobile virtualisation technology, and companies such as ShoreTel and Enterproid also offer their own versions of the technology.

“Dual persona devices are starting to gain credence,” said Webb. “We are experimenting with different options – making the service native to the device or finding a way to split everything. We will go as far as splitting the billing eventually.”

While dual persona goes a long way to addressing the security concerns of IT departments which find the idea of supporting devices that run both enterprise and consumer applications difficult to swallow, Rob Walker, partner at Ernst & Young, warned that there are still grey areas around liability.

HR, Finance and IT departments need to define policies around BYOD within an organisation, he said.

IDC analyst Mike Cansfield added the financial benefits of BYOD are yet to be proven. While a company may save money by not buying hundreds of handsets, this could be outweighed by the cost of implementing mobile device management (MDM) software that supports multiple platforms.