Phoenix from the flames

Phoenix from the flames
My usual routine for booting my home computer is to turn it on, then go away, make a cup of tea and come back 10 to 15 minutes later, knowing it’s safe by then to click something and get some kind of response.
The only fast part of the whole process is the initial boot of the BIOS, the piece of software that sits on a memory chip and checks everything is powered on, then tells the PC where to find the operating system.
The name that briefly flashes up on my screen and on millions of others is Phoenix Technologies, the leading maker of this system firmware.
Phoenix had been in decline until a new management team came in a year ago with a plan to revitalise its product line. Its biggest step so far is the HyperSpace platform announced today, in what amounts to a reinvention of the humble role of the BIOS.
HyperSpace enhances the BIOS by adding a mini operating system of its own that should provide almost instant access to web browsers, email programs, instant messaging clients and media players that are written for it.
Phoenix is using new virtualisation capabilities being built into Intel and AMD chips, which allow such environments to be compartmentalised for greater security.
Applications have yet to be developed for the platform and Phoenix could face competition from other software companies, including Microsoft, by the time of HyperSpace’s full launch on notebook PCs in the second half of 2008.
But Rich Arnold, chief strategy officer, expects Phoenix will find enough partners to exploit HyperSpace’s instant-on capabilities for people wanting fast access to standard applications while on the go.
“We want to be a Blackberry inside the PC that has all the same functionality,” he says.
“This will give access to just the applications you really need and probably give you an hour of extra battery life.”

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