SplashTop Linux On HP, Dell Notebooks?
Back in October we were the first to deliver a full review of the DeviceVM's SplashTop, which is an instant-on Linux desktop embedded into motherboards, before the product was even unveiled. This technology was quite innovative and we were very fond of it and its original concept. This review went on to jump-start DeviceVM and garner media interest. Since the launch of SplashTop less than a year ago, we've named it as one of the greatest Linux innovations of 2007 and SplashTop is continuing to ship on more and more motherboards. To the open-source community they have released a few patches but not much more than that right now (and hopefully an SDK later this year). Over the past few months there have been DeviceVM engineers working on new features such as virtualization support to boot to a traditional OS while running within this instant Linux environment, etc.
Days after we delivered that inaugural review, we found out DeviceVM was in talks with OEMs about shipping SplashTop on desktops and notebooks. In January at the Consumer Electronic Show we witnessed SplashTop running on an ASUS notebook. In May, ASUS had formally announced they would begin shipping SplashTop on notebooks and also providing SplashTop (or "Express Gate", as they call it) on all of their motherboards.
It's been quite a run for DeviceVM in under a year, and now it appears they've picked up another OEM -- while still continuing their strong bond with ASUS. This week Hewlett-Packard announced the HP Envy 133 as its competition to Apple's ultra-thin MacBook Air notebook. Like the MacBook Air, the Envy 133 runs off an Intel CPU. With the HP Envy 133 they are also shipping an "instant-on Linux" they've called Voodoo IOS (Instant-on Operating System). Details, however, have been short on this Voodoo IOS Linux. Representatives for DeviceVM have declined to comment whether Voodoo IOS is a re-branded version of SplashTop, but all signs are that it is. We'll just have to wait until the Envy 133 starts shipping to see whether or not it's really SplashTop Linux, but we're reasonably certain. More information on this notebook is available in this HP PDF file.
In addition to the instant-on Linux excitement this week for the HP Envy 133, Dell is apparently working on a similar Linux solution. Engadget has shared details surrounding the Dell E and E Slim. These notebooks are direct competition to the very popular ASUS Eee PCs. These Dell E and E Slim notebooks will use Intel's Diamondville processors and come with a similar set of features to the Eee PC and potentially at a better price. The E and E Slim also ship with what Dell is calling "BlackTop" for providing an instant-on Linux solution.
While BlackTop sounds quite similar to SplashTop, indications are that this is a separate solution from Dell. Like the HP situation, DeviceVM has refrained from commenting, but there's a strong belief that they're actually competing products and the only common links are their usage of Linux and focus on a quick-booting OS. Dell's BlackTop 1.0 has WiFi and WWAN/WiMAX support while BlackTop 1.5 is expected to bring expanded WiFi support, expanded localization, a software updater, and an instant messenger. When BlackTop 2.0 is ready, this instant-on Linux will be expanded from their E line-up to the Latitude and Vostro series. BlackTop 2.0 is expected to bring additional features as well, but no time-frame is provided.
For a few months now DeviceVM has had a version of SplashTop that comes equipped with the Pidgin (formerly GAIM) instant messenger. From the very beginning SplashTop has been using SCIM (Smart Common Input Method), which supports more than 30 languages. With Dell only having these two features on their road-map, this goes in favor of the belief that Dell is working on their own (competing) product. One of the slides provided by Engadget also shows quite a different user interface than SplashTop's BlackBox desktop environment.
That's all we know right now. We are confident that Hewlett-Packard is using SplashTop as the basis for their Voodoo IOS on the Envy 133. On the other hand, Dell appears to be developing their own embedded Linux solution for their notebooks. When we have more information, we'll be sure to pass it along.
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