NEW YORK - Tired of Windows? The next generation of laptops may let you jump from one operating system to another to play movies, surf the Web or read e-mail.
Phoenix Technologies Ltd., a leading maker of the software that controls Windows computers most basic workings, announced this week that it will offer a feature it calls HyperSpace to laptop manufacturers.
Woody Hobbs, the Milpitas, Calif.-based company's chief executive, said the first application of the technology probably will show up next summer in the shape of laptops that can play DVDs outside Windows.
User will be able to boot in a few seconds straight into the DVD player, skipping the longer Windows startup, or switch to the DVD player from Windows. If Windows is running at the same time, it can be put in sleep mode, prolonging battery life.
Laptops with a media player separate from Windows already exist, but the players don't run parallel to Windows (you have to boot into the player, then shut it down and boot into Windows to switch tasks).
Laptops with HyperSpace would likely have a separate button that instantly switches away from Windows.
In a second phase, Hobbs sees things like Web browsers, e-mail programs and Web conferencing software like Skype being built into HyperSpace. Computer management functions like antivirus scanning could also be performed outside Windows, improving security, Hobbs said.
The technology would move PCs closer to being appliances - always on and available - and give computer manufacturers a chance to differentiate themselves in what is in many respects a commodity business, by pre-loading different applications.
The HyperSpace environment would be based on Linux, giving the freely distributed operating system what could be its biggest break yet in the struggle to gain traction against Windows on PCs.