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Mobile PC environment complements Windows

Posted: 07 Nov 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:virtualization? application environment? Windows? flash module?

Phoenix Technologies Ltd is using virtualization technology to carve out a new market in PC software beyond its traditional BIOS code. The company is working with notebook makers to roll out HyperSpace, a basic application environment for mobile systems intended to be a kind of complement to Windows.

HyperSpace aims to provide access to simplified versions of applications at times when Windows is not available because the system is booting, in a deep sleep mode or stalled. It will include a simplified Web browser, media player and e-mail client as well as systems management and security utilities.

While Windows can take as long as 45s to boot, the HyperSpace environment should be ready in as little as 5-10s. "No matter what Windows is doing you can access programs in HyperSpace," said Gaurav Banga, chief technology officer and senior VP of engineering at Phoenix

The Phoenix move comes on the heels of the launch of FlashMate from competitor Insyde Software. FlashMate aims to provide similar functions, however it rides a new flash module from Silicon Storage Technology Inc.

Phoenix believes users will be able to switch between HyperSpace and Windows more quickly than they can toggle between Windows and FlashMate environments, said Banga. That's because, unlike its competition, Hyperspace is based on creating a single environment that hosts both Windows and the Phoenix software.

The tradeoff in that approach is that some Windows applications could take a performance hit of as much as 10 percent. However, the degradation is so small users should not notice it, Banga said.

Phoenix is now working with OEMs to customize Hyperspace and expects initial systems using the software could ship in about nine months. However, so far the company has not garnered any public support from any PC makers or third party software companies supporting HyperSpace.

The new direction emerges as Phoenix completes its transition to BIOS based on the Extensible Firmware Interface promoted by Intel Corp. EFI moves BIOS from its heritage in the 1980's as assembly language code running in real mode to a more high-level and open environment developed in C.

With EFI, BIOS also updates its table of hardware system resources. Today BIOS, operating systems and even applications sometimes each build their own separate tables of available hardware on a system.

"With EFI, that will go away. There will only need to be hardware discovery done once," said Banga.

Support for HyperSpace is embedded in the latest EFI-based BIOS code from Phoenix. The company will also make HyperSpace available on its legacy BIOS.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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