The New York Times has an article up recently about the goal to cut start up times for personal computers:
In Age of Impatience, Cutting PC Start Time.
In coming months, the world’s major PC makers plan to introduce a new generation of quick-start computers, spotting a marketing opportunity in society’s short attention span.
Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo are rolling out machines that give people access to basic functions like e-mail and a Web browser in 30 seconds or less. Asus, a Taiwanese company that is the world’s largest maker of the circuit boards at the center of every PC, has begun building faster-booting software into its entire product line.
It’s interesting to see how users perceptions about the impact of start times has changed more quickly than the operating systems have.
The New York Times article talks about how some of the current solutions use Linux and a browser (usually Firefox or a Gecko-based browser.)
Until Microsoft comes up with a way to greatly shorten the time it takes to load Windows, PC makers are speeding up boot times using programs that bypass Windows. The systems vary technically, but they all rely on a version of an operating system called Linux that gives users quick access to Web browsing and other basic functions of their computer. In some cases, Windows never boots, while in others, Windows starts in the background.
The NYT article didn’t mention it by name but the category of PCs in question here are netbooks.
Jeff Atwood has a post up about his new netbook and how much he uses the web browser on it vs. any other application: The Web Browser is the New Laptop.
Every day, more and more of what we need to do is delivered through a browser, with fewer and fewer compromises. I spend ridiculous, unhealthy amounts of time browsing the web, and this netbook does that with aplomb. At this point, who cares what operating system you run? Choice of web browser will have a far more profound impact on most people’s daily lives. As the prices for netbooks inevitably collapse, they are poised to transform the entire computer market, threatening both Apple and Microsoft.
This reminds me of Toni Schneider’s (CEO of Automattic) post from February 2007, when he claimed that he only needed a browser to do his work: The Firefox computer.
I want a Firefox computer. A nice, sleek, solid state notebook with a big screen that you open up and it just runs Firefox. I bet this could be had for a reasonable price, it could have a nice long battery life and start up almost instantly. I’d still have a PC or Mac at home to store my photos and music, but for my everyday work life the Firefox computer is all I need.
Toni foresaw the demand for the netbooks that are gaining in popularity today. The big question is what is next after the OS blends into the background as is being documented by the NY Times.