CES: PCs Load Apps Even Before Windows Starts

Several vendors are pre-installing software that automatically connects to a local network to let users browse the Web.
Tired of waiting for Windows to boot up just to get to perform the most basic tasks or open simple applications on the computer?

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, quick loading dual-boot systems are making themselves known with their abilities to load a Web browser and other applications in 10 to 20 seconds of pushing the power button.

For example, Phoenix Technologies' HyperSpace software loads a Linux-based operating system, a Firefox-based browser (with more applications on the way) and automatically connects to a local network to let users browse the Web without ever having to load Windows, or even while Windows loads in the background.

HyperSpace comes in two versions. With the "Hybrid" version, Windows and HyperSpace both load, meaning that a user could browse the Web while Windows takes its sweet time to load, or could do the same while Windows is updating itself. With Dual mode, HyperSpace and Windows can't run at the same time, but HyperSpace could still act just like new quick start options from Lenovo and Sony, which load a small subset of applications into a Linux-based environment for the times when a user doesn't need the full firepower of Windows and Windows apps.

Phoenix updated HyperSpace, first released to system builders at last year's CES, so that consumers can now download and use it. HyperSpace software is a virtualization package that requires chipsets with Intel's VT hardware virtualization technology, Windows Vista and (for now) certain graphics chipsets. HyperSpace takes 15-25 seconds to load, but some other quick start technologies take only about 10 seconds.

As for Lenovo and Sony, Lenovo's newly released IdeaPad S10 netbook includes Quick Start, a slim version of Linux that loads much faster than Windows. With Quick Start, the computer can be up and running and browsing the Web within 10 seconds of hitting the power button.

After turning on the IdeaPad, the computer prompts the user to choose between loading Quick Start and the full version of Windows. Quick Start includes a photo viewer, Web browser, Skype, media player and instant messenger. It was co-developed by Lenovo and DeviceVM with its SplashTop Linux operating system, which has already found its way to some Asus notebooks.

One item Quick Start is missing is much of a semblance of security, an interesting omission considering that the Web is notoriously insecure and that when an IdeaPad user logs into Windows, facial recognition software acts as one of the authentication measures. That said, a customized version of Linux is likely to naturally be more secure than Windows.

Another new netbook with a quick loading option is the tiny 1.4-pound Sony Vaio P, which lets users quickly access the Web and photos in Sony's Instant Mode, an option found in most of Sony's other new notebooks as well. Instant Mode can also play CDs or DVDs.

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