“Instant On” for Windows – irrelevant now?

Cnet posted an article today regarding a recent survey from Microsoft where they mull the idea of an “Instant On” version of Windows.  The concept has been around for awhile now, but hasn’t made a lot of strides in the PC market until recently, as Asus introduced the “SplashTop” OS into their EeePC line of netbooks.  The idea is pretty simple: a lightweight and very simple operating system sits between the BIOS and the full-blown OS (Linux distro, Windows, etc.) on your laptop/desktop machine.  That lightweight OS starts in a matter of a few seconds, and allows you access to a basic Internet browser, email client, instant messaging clients, and perhaps a few other tools.


A novel concept, no?  I can only wonder, though, if the time for an “Instant ON” OS has really come and gone. 

Here me out.

I can only speak for my own personal use-cases, of course, but having quick access to the web, email, and instant messaging is really handled by my mobile phone these days.  Ask an iPhone user (or anyone with a *modern* mobile phone) and they will likely tell you that they already get access to the Internet from their phone.  It’s small, lightweight, relatively fast, and (almost) always with them.  Need a movie showtime schedule?  I grab my phone.  Need quick directions?  Same.  Fire off a quick email (or check my messages)?  I grab my phone, not a laptop.  Otherwise, when I sit down at my computer, I’m typically wanting access to all of the applications that I’m use to having – full-capability browser, photo editing program, music manager, office apps, all my files, and so on.

Don’t get me wrong: having a netbook-sized device with an Instant On OS isn’t useless, but it’s not nearly as handy now as it would’ve been about 3 years ago — *before* most mobile phones had decent Internet/email capability.  At this point, though, I think that most folks will opt to use the device that’s in their pocket or purse, rather than grab a laptop or netbook.

For those reasons, I think that Microsoft would be wasting it’s time developing an Instant On operating system.  Rather, spend that money, time and energy working on better power management in Windows (“hibernate” is great!), and get the next version of Windows Mobile to market ASAP.

My $.02


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