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Quick-boot Linux environment makes a splash

May 19, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 13 views

DeviceVM announced that its quick-booting Splashtop Linux implementation is being pre-installed in ROM (read-only memory) on four new Asus motherboards. Asus says it plans to ship over a million Splashtop-ready motherboards per month, making this one of the largest Linux deployments ever.

(Click for larger view of the Asus P5Q motherboard)

Splashtop, branded “Express Gate” by Asus, stores a lightweight Linux environment in flash ROM, enabling PC users to instantly and securely browse the web without booting Windows, says DeviceVM. It is said to boot up a prompt within five seconds, letting users either continue booting Windows or instead load a stripped-down Linux environment featuring the Firefox web browser, Adobe Flash, Skype, and, starting with the P5Q motherboards (pictured above), a photo viewer.

After the initial five-second boot-to-prompt, the technology is said to enable a Firefox web session within a few more seconds. In this way, Asus hopes users will be inspired to turn off their computers to reduce power usage, knowing that they can get online again in less than ten seconds.

Splashtop debuted on high-end Asus motherboards in October, and was integrated on mainstream M3 series motherboards in January. The P5Q Deluxe, P5Q-WS, P5Q3 Deluxe, and P5Q motherboards are set to ship later this quarter, making a dozen Asus boards with Splashtop to date. So far, all the Splashtop-enabled Asus mobos have been desktop models, but notebook models are said to be on the way as well. Since Splashtop uses less power than Windows, the technology should offer another way to extend battery life, DeviceVM claims.

The firmware is said to support WiFi, Ethernet, and bookmarking, but not access to local storage. An upcoming version that was demonstrated at this January's CES show is said to provide for MP3 and DVD playback, however. With this addition, Splashtop will be similar to Intervideo's InstantOn, which has been embedded in consumer notebooks by Lenovo and NEC, as well as the Linux-based alternative boot image developed by Toshiba for its Qosmio PCs. However, Splashtop is the only Linux-based quick-boot technology, it appears, that supports web browsing, email, and Skype functionality.

According to a company blog, DeviceVM recently demonstrated a future version that offers a virtualization option that loads Windows in the background while also quickly starting and using Splashtop. DeviceVM positions itself as a virtualization company, so it seems likely the company is moving toward a truly virtualized environment that lets users quickly switch back and forth between the two operating systems. Potentially, the technology might also be modified to support storage via a USB storage key when wishing to transfer files between the two environments.

According to DeviceVM, Asus is not an exclusive provider of the technology, and further announcements should be forthcoming. The company has received $10M in Series A funding, from investors that include AsusTek, Storm Ventures, DFJ DragonFund China, Tim Draper, iD Innovation (described as a “venture arm started by Acer Group founder Stan Shih), Harbinger Ventures, and “angel investors affiliated with major PC manufacturers Lenovo, Foxconn, Quanta, Compal, etc.”

Stated Joe Hsieh, GM, Asus Motherboard Business Unit, “In response to great user feedback, our plan is to proliferate Express Gate across our entire motherboard product portfolio, starting with over one million motherboards per month. Consumers want to turn their PCs on and off like any other appliance, and Express Gate has made that possible.”


The Asus P5Q motherboards are scheduled to ship this quarter. More information on Splashtop can be found at their still minimalistic, but no longer stealth, website, here.

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