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Phoenix rounds out quick-boot Hyperspace with Office-compatible suite

ThinkFree Office to be added to fast-boot platform

By Eric Lai
March 2, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Phoenix Technologies Ltd. today announced that ThinkFree Office, a Microsoft Office-like productivity suite, will be available via its fast-boot HyperSpace platform.

HyperSpace is a Linux-based "lite" operating system that laptop users can boot into within a matter of seconds, compared with the several minutes typically required to load Windows. By mimicking the instant-on experience of smartphones, HyperSpace gets around one of the long-standing complaints about Windows: its slow boot time, which even Microsoft has implicitly acknowledged.

HyperSpace not only saves users time but requires less energy to run than Windows, thus extending battery life, according to Milpitas, Calif.-based Phoenix, better known as one of the two firms dominating the BIOS software market, the other being American Megatrends Inc.

In HyperSpace, users can access cut-down versions of applications, including the Firefox Web browser, a video player with a large variety of codecs, a calculator, a notepad and some games, said CTO Guarav Banga in an interview.

While Windows laptops can wake up from sleep or hibernate modes fairly quickly, Banga claimed that they are unreliable.

"You get a lot of people in offices who walk to meetings with their laptop lids open, too afraid to close them in case it takes too long for their laptop to wake up, find the Wi-Fi, etc.," he said.

Besides adding ThinkFree, the latest update to HyperSpace also boosts its color and resolution capabilities, Banga said.

Phoenix is working on adding e-mail and instant messaging software, too. Banga said the e-mail would not be Thunderbird, the open-source e-mail software spun out of Firefox maker Mozilla.

Phoenix competes with another instant-on Linux platform, Splashtop. It also implicitly competes with products such as the $150 device introduced by Lenovo Group Ltd. and Research In Motion Ltd. last month that automatically forwards mail from users' BlackBerries to turned-off ThinkPads.

So far, traction for HyperSpace has been limited. Only two major manufacturers, NEC Corp. in Japan and Taiwan's Asustek Computer Inc., have announced plans to install HyperSpace onto their netbooks and laptop PCs. Banga promised that Phoenix will "announce a few more deals in the next couple of weeks."

Phoenix also sells HyperSpace directly to consumers in two flavors: a hybrid version that lets users instantly flip back and forth between HyperSpace and Windows and costs $59.95 per year, and a Dual version that costs $39.95 per year and requires users to exit HyperSpace to get into Windows.

Both can be taken for a 21-day test drive. Banga did not disclose how many customers HyperSpace has but said the software has had "tens of thousands" of trial downloads.

For security, Phoenix controls which applications can be installed into HyperSpace. Adding more apps "is definitely our goal," Banga said, as is opening up the environment so users can eventually choose what software to install.

Eventually, notebook PC users will be able to "skip the Windows environment completely," he said. "We are just bringing user choice. Microsoft would have to live with that."

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