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BIOS vendor promises simultaneous Linux, Windows sessions

Nov 5, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

BIOS giant Phoenix Technologies will ship a fast-booting, power-sipping, Linux-based environment equipped with Opera Software's embedded browser, the companies announced. Due in January, and targeting “mobile PCs,” Phoenix's “HyperSpace” product promises “instant-on” Internet access on mobile PCs, while the primary OS is booting, running, or shutting down, Phoenix says.

Fast-booting, Linux-based environments are becoming commonplace on Windows desktops and notebooks, because they offer faster access to commonly used functionality such as email, web browsing, and media playback. Similar technologies include Intervideo's InstantOn, DeviceVM's Splashtop, Dell Latitude On, and Toshiba Qosmio. Combined, these environments could result in Linux outshipping Windows on the desktop in 2009, according to a recent blog post by Linux Foundation Director Jim Zemlin.

One wit — who will go unnamed here — likened this dual-OS architecture to a car with a second steering wheel for parking. The technology would not be needed if Microsoft could simply fix Windows's slow-boot problem, he suggested. Yet, Phoenix's technology, at least, appears to enable the simultanous use of both steering wheels, since it uniquely allows the Linux-based environment to be used while the primary OS is running.

Although Phoenix has not shared details, HyperSpace will likely use a secondary ARM-based processor subsystem, similar to Dell's Latitude On technology. This guess is based on Phoenix CEO Woody Hobbs's comment, “HyperSpace delivers an extra two hours of battery life on the average notebook.”

Equipped with the Opera browser, and targeting “mobile PCs,” the new HyperSpace product will enable Web browsing, secure transactions, instant messaging, multimedia playback, and reading and sending email “without having to wait for Windows to boot,” the company says. The technology promises to support Opera Link, a feature aimed at “synchronizing bookmarks and saved pages between multiple devices and OSes,” Phoenix said. And, it will leverage Opera Widgets, providing notebook vendors and their partners with an easy development environment for building branded Internet service interfaces outside the confines of traditional browser application windows.

Rolf Assev, chief strategy officer at Opera, commented, “We can improve the user experience by helping to deliver instant-on access to the full Web on the next generation of mobile PCs.”

Hobbs noted, “Users will enjoy a dynamic online experience seconds after turning on their PCs. And once Windows has fully booted, users will be able to quickly and easily toggle back and forth between their Windows applications and the instant-on, always-available HyperSpace environment.”

Phoenix has long been exploring ways to add more functionality to the BIOS layer. For example, in 2004, it launched its Core System Software (CSS) technology aimed at running bare-metal applications and auxiliary OSes in the pre-boot environment. Early CSS options included a Linux-based “Console” system recovery environment, and a TrustedCore security environment designed to monitor various machine states outside of the primary operating system's scope. A subsequent TrustedCore SP2 update went so far as to add a “StrongROM” hardware cryptography engine.


Phoenix expects to deliver HyperSpace in January. Pricing was not disclosed.

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