DoCoMo, Intel pitch dual-OS handsets

Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo on Wednesday published the first revision of its OSTI (open and secure terminal initiative) specification, allowing for the dual booting of operating systems on handsets.

As has already revealed, the OSTI platform supports two domains, an ‘operator domain’ intended for personal use and a second domain, which DoCoMo envisions as the ‘enterprise domain’ for business use.

Each domain would have its own management policies and could even run a different operating system. The OSTI architecture would separate the domains, protecting quality of service and user privacy “even in the presence of flawed or malicious software.”

The platform uses a Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) to allow one domain to run in the background and the other to run in the foreground, while allowing instant switching between the two. The operator domain would remain ‘awake’ at all times so a user could still receive an incoming call regardless of which domain, OS or application they are using.

DoCoMo said that the “essential promise of OSTI is that no matter what happens in the enterprise domain, the operator domain will continue to provide the operator services that the user depends on with uncompromised security and quality.”

Interestingly though, the document claims to be intended for platform developers and system software developers. There is no mention of the handset vendor community, the participation of which would presumably be essential to the success of the initiative.

The platform has been jointly developed by Intel though, so it is a safe bet that this is where the technology is likely to be deployed. Although the chip giant does not have a major presence in the mobile space it does have partnerships with Nokia and DoCoMo is rather fond of the Symbian platform as well as Linux.

Cliff Raskind, analyst with Strategy Analytics, believes the development is reminiscent of the DOS/OS2 split personality seen in PCs a decade ago and more recently on Macs that run Windows. As such, the platform is likely to have significant geek appeal.

But while the domain controller’s ability to allow two domains to simultaneously access the phone’s baseband processing functions is quite a feat, Raskind wonders whether the platform would appeal to enterprises.

“There certainly is the possibility of adding additional applications and tweaking security settings,” he said, “However, IT departments try to contain the number of OS’s they must support at all costs. As such they would eschew dual OS devices as they could add device provisioning and management complexity to the mix.”

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