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Netbooks: Small, cheap ... and fast?

Good OS and Phoenix Technologies plan to make netbooks speedier

By Peter Sayer
December 1, 2008 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Linux distributor Good OS LLC and BIOS vendor Phoenix Technologies Ltd. each have plans to make netbooks speedier devices, the vendors said at the Netbook World Summit in Paris on Monday.

For Good OS, the browser is the operating system -- or at least, all you're going to see of it.

While other companies have developed quick-start software that allows users to check mail or play music seconds after they have turned on their computers, Good OS has created "a wrapper that enables you to perform all your major rich client applications from within the browser," said Good OS founder and CEO David Liu.

The company's forthcoming "Cloud" software combines a compressed Linux kernel with a browser modified to play media files, make phone calls and set up the computer's network connection.

The different functions are accessed through a line of icons at the bottom of the browser window, reminiscent of the Dock in Apple's Mac OS X. They can include a media player, a Skype client, a Gmail session, access to online productivity suites such as Google Docs, or a tool for configuring Wi-Fi access. The browser's tabbed interface allows navigation between different tasks, Liu said.

Netbook manufacturers can also choose to add a button to launch a full operating system, either Windows or Linux, for users who just have to run a "real" application for some tasks.

That's what Good OS's first customer plans to do, said Liu. Taiwanese vendor Giga-byte Technology Co. will show a Tablet PC-style touch-screen netbook at CES in Las Vegas in January, running Cloud and Windows XP, he said.

Liu wasn't sure how much Giga-byte would charge for the netbook but ventured that the price would perhaps be "under $500," -- or, in any case, "very competitive." He wouldn't say exactly how much Good OS is charging Giga-byte for the software, either. "We are talking more high-end, but very cost-competitive," he said.

Phoenix Technologies is readying something similar to Cloud, but with a twist: Its quick-start Linux system puts the application icons down the side of the screen instead of along the bottom.

There's more to it than that, though: Using its HyperSpace virtualization software, Phoenix lets users to read their e-mail or check out a YouTube video within 10 to 15 seconds of turning on their computers while Windows continues to boot in the background. The Windows icon at the side of the screen changes to let users know when the operating system is ready for work.

This system also allows Phoenix to apply some aggressive power-management techniques, reducing system load and shutting down unused components to give users up to an hour of extra battery life as they surf the Web, said Surendra Arora, the company's vice president of business development.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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