Splashtop's new instant-on OS based on Chromium browser

Splashtop builds a Chrome OS-like operating system that can work with Windows

Splashtop on Tuesday released a new version of its instant-on OS that is based on the Chromium browser and could shorten PC boot times to just a few seconds.

The latest version of the Splashtop OS, now in beta, is a lightweight version of Linux that allows users to surf the Web, access online applications or check e-mail almost instantly after switching on a PC. Instant-on OSes are designed to be an option to Microsoft's Windows OS, which takes longer to boot.

The beta OS is available for download from Splashtop's website.

The OS boots into the open-source Chromium browser, and search services are provided through Microsoft's Bing search engine. The OS can be installed independently on netbooks or PCs and does not necessarily require Windows on a system to run.

"After install, it doesn't require Windows or run on top of Windows, it is independent -- it allows the notebook or netbook to boot into Splashtop OS before Windows," said Dave Bottoms, senior director of product management for Splashtop. "A user can choose to stay in the Splashtop environment or exit and boot into Windows," Bottoms said.

Splashtop's browser-based OS concept is similar to Google's upcoming Chrome OS, a lightweight OS based on Linux and geared for people who do most of their computing on the Web. However, Bottoms said that Splashtop OS is different in that it works along with Windows, with both installed in separate partitions, giving users the flexibility to switch between OSes.

"Unlike Chrome OS, it is intended to be a Windows companion, run on a system that also has Windows so access to those Windows-based applications are there when and if you need them," Bottoms said.

The OS, for example, can import some settings from Windows such as language, wireless networking and browser bookmarks, Bottoms said.

The concept of instant-on OSes has been around for years, but has not found much traction because of the inability to run full applications such as media players or Microsoft Office. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Lenovo have preloaded instant-on OSes into netbooks, but have scaled down integration in wake of the low acceptance levels of the software.

But Splashtop hopes to cash in on the growing use of online services and the wider number of applications available online. Once the OS is loaded, users can access services and applications rendered in the browser such as Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Google Docs and Zoho.

A future version of the Splashtop OS will be based on MeeGo, an open-source Linux environment backed by Intel and Nokia, Bottoms said. The OS will blend web applications and native applications downloaded from application stores like Intel's AppUp Center.

The Splashtop OS will become general available in early 2011, the company said in a blog entry.

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