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Instant-on PCs could take off with netbooks

Many of us spend too much time watching the Windows boot screen, but that could change as companies introduce small laptops that boot in a few seconds.

Quick-boot capabilities have lingered on the horizon for years, but could finally take off in small form-factor PCs like netbooks and mini-laptops. Without loading Windows, users can instantly surf the Web, view digital images or check e-mail just a few seconds after switching on the netbook.

Lenovo and Sony showed new quick-booting laptops Web access or multimedia at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Lenovo brought instant-boot capability to its IdeaPad S10 netbook. Instead of a full Windows startup, the Quick Start environment allows users to access photos, listen to music or browse the Web in fewer than 10 seconds. Quick Start uses software based on DeviceVM's lightweight Linux OS.

Sony also showed its pocket-sized Vaio P series device that includes quick-boot capabilities. On boot, Sony's Cross Media Bar navigation system provides instant access to multimedia applications and the Internet.

Quick-boot capabilities are particularly appropriate for small PCs like netbooks, which are used more for basic applications like Web surfing and content consumption, said Craig Merrigan, vice president of global consumer marketing at Lenovo.

“The netbook usage scenario is kind of a grab it, use it, put it back sort of situation. We believe it optimizes for that quick boot-type of environment,” Merrigan said.

Lenovo doesn't plan to deliver a quick-boot environment for mainstream notebooks, Merrigan said. Mainstream PCs are used for a wider range of applications, including tasks like content creation, which are better achieved by running a full-fledged OS.

“For mainstream notebooks when you are doing a greater variety of things… the quick-boot environment doesn't support that all that well so we think that it's better left to netbooks at this time,” he said.

Full-fledged operating systems are cluttered with applications and drivers that slow down PC boot times, said Anand Nadathur, director of product management at Phoenix Technologies, which makes quick-boot software for PCs. Users could either wait and stare at the boot screen, or use instant-on capabilities for quick access to the Internet.

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