Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News HyperSpace, a Browsing Environment with a Small Footprint

HyperSpace, a Browsing Environment with a Small Footprint

This item in japanese

Phoenix Technologies has created HyperSpace, a small OS that supports only browsing. HyperSpace precedes Google Chrome OS which is supposed to offer the same functionality with some differences.

There are enough laptops that come with a dual-boot environment preinstalled. While the primary OS is a Windows, the dual one is usually some flavor of stripped down Linux that boots-up quickly. Phoenix Technologies, the company who’s BIOS is preinstalled on the majority of PCs, has created HyperSpace, a pre-boot environment that does not come preinstalled on specific laptops, but it can be downloaded and used based on a subscription.

According to Phoenix, HyperSpace is

HyperSpace is an instant-on, secure computing environment that runs independently alongside a primary operating system (OS) such as Windows Vista. The HyperSpace platform is enabled by an efficient hypervisor from Phoenix called HyperCore(TM), which is embedded within the core system firmware, or BIOS. HyperCore is a lightweight Zoned Virtual Machine Monitor (ZVMM) that runs specialized core services side by side with Windows.

HyperSpace is practically a basic PC environment built on a striped down Linux kernel with a Mozilla-based browser on top of it. The browser has a PDF plug-in to view such files, but the files currently cannot be saved locally. There are plans for add-on packages: Media Center Package - DVD, photo viewer, music player, Message Center Package - E-mail, IM, VoIP, and Enterprise Center Package - Citrix Client, VMWare, Windows Remote Desktop Client.

There are two types of HyperSpace environments, HyperSpace Dual and HyperSpace Hybrid. Both environments allow one to boot either on HyperSpace or Windows, but with the Hybrid edition one can run Windows in parallel with HyperSpace. Windows is in sleep mode when running in HyperSpace, and switching between the two is done with a key, F4.

HyperSpace has very short boot-up or shutdown times, a few seconds, making it ideal for instant-on netbooks to access the Internet. It is considered to be pretty secure because the only application running is a browser, and that is running on a very small Linux kernel which less prone to security holes. The battery life is 25-30% longer than using Windows on the same laptop doing the same activities.

There are considerable hardware limitations at this point. HyperSpace Dual works only with Windows XP and Vista 32-bit, while Hybrid needs Vista 32-bit. The graphic cards supported are limited to Intel series 3000, 3100, X3000, X3100, X3500, X4500, and the laptop must have at least 2GB of memory to run in Hybrid mode. Only a small number of netbooks and laptops have been certified to run with HyperSpace.

The product is offered based on a subscription: Dual, 1 year for $40 or 3 years for $100, and Hybrid, 1 year for $60, and 3 years for $150.

It is interesting to see what path Google Chrome OS will take. Being developed for netbooks in the first place, Chrome OS probably won’t have dual boot along with Windows, but future versions aimed at the desktop might offer something like that.

Rate this Article