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Press F4 to Bypass Windows With Fast-Boot Technology

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Posted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 02:25
Author: Blocked
There's absolutely no reason you should be waiting the three-plus minutes it takes your computer to boot up Windows, says Woody Hobbs, CEO of Phoenix Technologies. And indeed, if Hobbs has his way, you may not have to endure those waits much longer.

Phoenix says its new technology, HyperSpace, will offer mobile PC users the ability to instantly fire up their most used apps -- things like e-mail, web browsers and various media players -- without using Windows, simply by pressing the F4 button.

"As Windows gets more and more complex, we've seen startup times get longer and longer," says Hobbs. "If I go to the airport and try to connect to a Wi-Fi network, I'm waiting for five minutes just to connect. That's ridiculous -- people usually just give up and use their cell phones or PDAs."

Phoenix Technologies is the company responsible for many computers' basic input/output system, or BIOS, the firmware code that runs when your PC starts up. Usually, the BIOS identifies the hardware on your PC and initializes components, then lets the operating system handle everything else, from storing files to connecting with networks to running applications. In essence, HyperSpace is a simple operating environment, a layer on top of the BIOS, that runs side-by-side with Windows and can efficiently implement some of the most commonly used apps on a PC.

Chipmakers and PC manufacturers have been trying to liberate themselves from lengthy startup times for a while, according to Hobbs, but the experience has been "controlled up in Seattle." Indeed, Hobbs says Microsoft regards HyperSpace as "outside their sphere of influence," and is not too happy with Phoenix's offering, which adds yet another voice to the already loud chorus of voices complaining about operating-system bloat.

Phoenix Technologies says content providers will be able to create "instant-on" applications like media players, and PC system vendors will be able to embed purpose-built apps into new computers. The quick-start apps will operate like self-contained appliances.

"We're really excited about what Phoenix is doing," says Steve Grobman, director of Intel's Business Client Architecture Group. "It really shows how companies are starting to use the underlying virtualization building blocks we put in our silicon in some really new and smart ways."

Grobman says Intel will continue working with Phoenix and companies doing similar things in virtual or embedded environments, like VMware and Parallels. "Our standpoint is that we want to make sure all of these guys have access to these technologies. The thing that's interesting about what Phoenix is offering is that it's proof that this technology can be used to solve a wide range of problems," Grobman says.

Those problems don't just entail slow boot times. At a basic level, they also have to do with Microsoft dictating user experience as a whole, regardless of what machine you're using. In that vein, Phoenix says its HyperSpace platform could very well usher in a new era of ultrapersonalized PCs and laptops, even upending the way the industry does business.

"Historically, Windows has defined the machine," Hobbs says, "and (manufacturers) can't really do anything about that. Now, we're giving them the ability to develop the machine in the way they want."

Hobbs says the Lenovos, Dells and Acers of the world can start tailoring computers with HyperSpace functionality to very specific demographics. A student-aimed laptop, for instance, could come with apps like word processing, e-mail and IM preloaded into HyperSpace. Companies could even start releasing HyperSpace versions of applications specifically for the embedded platform, he says.

Like VMware and Parallels, Hobbs says the platform isn't supposed to be a replacement for Windows, but rather a much-needed augmentation. Not only will the technology provide "instant-on" use, but it will also boost battery life by up to 50 percent as well as offer remote manageability.

Hobbs even foresees moving some of the apps that inadvertently slow down Windows, such as antivirus and malware-scanning utilities, out of the Windows OS altogether and into HyperSpace.

Phoenix is currently in talks with most major PC manufacturers, with the notable exception of Apple.

The company expects that manufacturers will start to integrate the HyperSpace platform into laptops within the next six to nine months, with consumers likely seeing a HyperSpace option from manufacturers in the second half of 2008.

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