Eyeing Google, Splashtop partners with Yahoo for instant-on web search

In a pre-emptive strike against Google Inc.'s Chrome OS, DeviceVM Inc. plans to make Web search the centerpiece of its popular instant-on operating system.

Users of the Linux-based Splashtop platform will be able to type in a search query within seconds of turning on their laptop or netbook, said Dave Bottoms, senior director of product management, in an interview.

For American and Japanese users, the search query will go to Yahoo Inc. For Chinese searchers, it will go to Baidu. For Russians, it will go to Yandex.

For fast typists whose PCs are hooked up to fast Internet connections, search results could come back via Splashtop's Firefox-based browser in about 10 seconds, according to Sergei Krupenin, senior director of marketing.

The partnerships with Yahoo and others on search will presage other deals to integrate Web applications from Google's many competitors into Splashtop, Bottoms said.

Google announced two weeks ago that it plans to build a fast-booting operating system based around Linux and tied closely to its Chrome Web browser, so that it will "start up and get you onto the Web in a few seconds."

DeviceVM plans to release the instant search-enabled update to Splashtop to PC makers in August and to end users a month after that.

That will beat Google, which only plans to release the source code and betas of Chrome OS sometime this year.

For now, Splashtop remains atop the instant-on Linux market, whose other entrants include Phoenix Technologies Ltd.'s HyperSpace and Xandros Inc.'s Presto.

DeviceVM expects to ship Splashtop on 30 million PCs this year, and 100 million next year, Bottoms said.

Its biggest customer is Asustek Inc., which pre-loads Splashtop on more than 100 different computers and motherboards. Others include Acer Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sony Corp.

According to Krupenin, the "vast majority" of PCs with Splashtop also run Windows as their main operating system.

He conceded that Splashtop now has enough apps in its stack for DeviceVM to market it to PC makers as a primary operating system, the way Google is targeting Chrome OS.

But co-existence, not revolution, is in DeviceVM's DNA. It has no desire to displace Windows.

"We are a very good companion environment," Krupenin said. "We really don't think trying to replace the operating system is the right strategy... so we've chosen not to fight that battle."

Splashtop only runs on Intel-based computers, not smartphones or "smartbooks" based on the ARM processor.

"We've been looking at ARM, but so far haven't pulled the trigger," Krupenin said. "It's quite a bit of technical work. And the most interesting usage for Splashtop is being able get a full Web browser right away. You can't get that on a mobile phone."

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