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Motorola invests in mobile virtualization company

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Can't decide between a BlackBerry and Windows Mobile? In the future you might be able to buy a phone with both operating systems on it.

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VirtualLogix makes it possible for handset makers to use virtualization to run two OSes on a single phone. On Monday it plans to announce that Motorola is a new investor in the company, joining Intel, Cisco and Texas Instruments.

While it's unlikely that those two particular OSes will be offered on the same device, phone makers are interested in mobile virtualization because it can improve security and allow them to cut costs, according to Mark Milligan, vice president of marketing for VirtualLogix. Most mobile operating systems, including the proprietary software running the majority of phones on the market, are closed. "The reason is a fear that if you open it up, it will be too much of a security issue," Milligan said.

Using virtualization, a handset maker can run one operating system that controls important basic phone functions, and separate it from another operating system that an end-user can customize and add applications to. Separating the two protects the basic phone functions from being corrupted by applications that a user may download.

For now, VirtualLogix products are being used to reduce phone development costs by allowing manufacturers to use a single chip in phones that have multimedia capabilities. NXP Semiconductor, for example, is able to use one processor to run the wireless stack as well as the mobile Linux operating system, something that would normally require a separate application processor, according to Milligan. "It enables a phone to be built at a price under [US]$100 with full multimedia capabilities," he said.

Motorola is interested in VirtualLogix primarily for its mobile phones, but has also expressed an interest in using it for virtualization in its network equipment, said Peter Richards, CEO of VirtualLogix.

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