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3/3/2009
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Linux Shell Gains Microsoft Office Support

ThinkFree deal allows the open source Phoenix HyperSpace Shell to work with Microsoft Word and Excel file formats.

Phoenix Technologies has entered into a partnership with ThinkFree that will allow Phoenix's HyperSpace Linux pre-boot shell to work with the same file formats contained in Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel.

Under the terms of the partnership, users will have access to the Office 3 versions of ThinkFree's Write, Calc, and Show applications, which are compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007, respectively. The ThinkFree suite also comes with a notepad, calculator, and graphics support.

Along with adding ThinkFree, Phoenix has added several new features to HyperSpace including improved color and higher resolution. Phoenix said it plans to add e-mail and instant messaging capabilities but didn't offer details on when those applications might be available.

With HyperSpace users can also access "lite" versions of popular applications, including the Firefox Web browser, a video player with a large variety of codecs, and selected games.

The paid version of Hyperspace will come with ThinkFree's full productivity suite, which normally costs $49.95, and includes file synchronization capabilities with local files and 1 GB of online storage.

The bundling deal isn't exclusive to Phoenix, company officials said. Any laptop user is free to download Office 3.

HyperSpace, described by company officials as a Linux-based "lite" operating system, allows laptops to boot up in just a few seconds as opposed to a few minutes for Windows. Company officials said HyperSpace gives users the instant-on/instant-off experience of a smartphone in the way it starts up and shuts down.

Explaining how HyperSpace works, company officials said the product accomplishes everything it does through Web services. It's essentially a stripped-down version of Linux that contains only a browser and network support.

Other competitive Linux shells are capable of mapping hard drives to Windows and are often pre-loaded with several Linux apps; HyperSpace serves as more of a cloud-based operating system, company officials contend.

To date, only two major manufacturers have committed to bundling HyperSpace with their portable systems, namely NEC and Asustek Computer, a Taiwan-based maker of laptops and netbook PCs.


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