Splashtop instant-access OS enters public beta

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Users of millions of laptops and netbooks have enjoyed the benefits of getting online within seconds of power-on thanks to Splashtop, and now the system is available as a public beta download

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For those of us who virtually live online, waiting around those few precious minutes for the system to boot into Windows, connect to the Internet and then present the browser is time wasted. For the last few couple of years, more and more new Windows machines have come pre-loaded with something that boots straight into our beloved online world. Splashtop is a browser-based operating system companion that allows users to get online in seconds after pushing the power button on. Now it's being made available for public beta download.

Splashtop was introduced in 2007 and has since found itself being pre-installed on millions of laptops and netbooks from companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and LG. It's a lightweight, web-centric operating system optimized for notebooks and netbooks that takes less than five seconds to load in and get users online.

Now for the first time, a beta download is available to everyone, although it's currently restricted to just a few supported devices. The company's Dave Bottoms told Gizmag: "We plan to add broad support for a range of Splashtop-enabled models we've already shipped first."

This is because engineers have already performed much of the testing and tuning necessary for getting Splashtop up and running on the many hardware configurations available.

Once downloaded, the software is loaded in via Windows Installer. During the installation process, Splashtop also imports settings such as time, date, language, location, and bookmarks from Internet Explorer or Firefox. It will also look for any Wi-Fi connection information in the Windows Connection Manager, so that the user can get online as quickly as possible.

If there's a bad connection, as sometimes happens, or you're out and about and using hotspots and Splashtop is unable to automatically connect, then you'd be presented with the Connection Manager to scan for available networks or to resolve whatever issue has arisen.

The new public beta has been stripped down a bit and doesn't include any of the native applications of the previous system. It features a locked-down Linux core running a browser interface based on Google's Chromium, but unlike Google's forthcoming Chromium OS, Splashtop has been built to work with (and not replace) Windows.

When you press the power button to turn on your computer, laptop or netbook, the Splashtop search screen – powered by Bing – and a few thumbnails of recently visited sites will be the first thing you see instead of the Windows desktop.

Users can then go off and explore, check email, update Twitter or Facebook profiles, check for updates on their favorite news sites, create online documents and so on, without needing to wait for Windows to boot up. All of the useful plugins that you'll need to enjoy your online experience are already there, including Adobe Flash, so there should be no need to have to stop while settings are updated.

Should a user wish to boot up Windows – to use a native application such as Photoshop, for instance – then Splashtop would close down and the system would load in Windows. Splashtop will be available from the next boot.

Bottoms told us that Splashtop OS would remain free to use, even after the beta tag has been dropped.

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