Phoenix Technologies' HyperSpace lets you power up and power down your notebook more quickly.
The scoop: HyperSpace, by Phoenix Technologies, about $40 per year (HyperSpace Dual tested, the HyperSpace Hybrid version costs $60 per year).
What it is: At its core, HyperSpace is quick-booting software for Windows notebooks (and netbooks) that aims to speed the power-up and power-down sequence so users can start working quicker, as well as save the notebook's battery life. Basic tasks like connecting to a wired or wireless network, checking Internet e-mail and Web surfing can be performed via the HyperSpace software.
The software uses a Linux-based environment, and comes in two versions: HyperSpace Dual creates a dual-OS environment for your system -- when you're using HyperSpace, Windows is not available. In order to use Windows, you have to shut down HyperSpace. The HyperSpace Hybrid version is more intriguing, as it lets users operate back-and-forth between Windows and the HyperSpace environment. Unfortunately, the Hybrid version only works with PCs that include the Intel Virtual Technology component, and I didn't have access to those systems for my tests.
Why it's cool: My current notebook (a Dell D620 Latitude) takes about 2.5 minutes to boot up from a cold state to a point at which my wireless network is connected and I can start work. The shutdown process is similarly painful -- it takes about a minute to power down, and that's if I'm not downloading patches or ending up with any weird shutdown error messages (which happens occasionally). Multiply 3.5 minutes per day for a full year of working (48 five-day weeks), and that's a lot of time wasted waiting on Windows (14 hours per year).
With HyperSpace installed, I booted up in about 30 seconds, and could access e-mail and the Web. Shutdown time with HyperSpace was even quicker -- I powered down in about five seconds. While I didn't have full Windows functionality (see below), HyperSpace could get me connected to the Internet a whole lot faster than just regular Windows.
This is valuable for situations where users need quick access to the 'Net -- for booting up and checking last-minute e-mails at the airport, or for checking a movie time or sports score or even updating your Facebook status. If you've ever dreaded the thought of booting up the notebook because of the slow boot-up or shutdown processes, HyperSpace solves that issue.
Some caveats: Getting the software installed on my Dell D620 Latitude notebook took some time -- first I had to make sure Windows XP with Service Pack 3 was installed (it wasn't, so that took some time). The HyperSpace Dual version (the Dell notebook couldn't install Hybrid) required a re-partitioning of my hard drive, which took about two hours to complete. At the moment, uninstalling the software won't uninstall the partitioning, but Phoenix is promising to fix that for Windows XP users (so an uninstall will also un-partition).
In addition, a "My Documents" folder in HyperSpace doesn't currently work with the Dual version; an update is promised later that will let users access documents on their hard drive. Initially, USB mice and keyboards were not supported through HyperSpace, but a patch fixed that issue -- my advice: keep checking to make sure you have the latest versions installed.
Bottom line: HyperSpace has great potential, but I'd like to see some non-Web applications in the HyperSpace environment, particularly music and DVD applications. Phoenix Technologies says a software development kit is in the works, so as more applications become available for HyperSpace, the software becomes more valuable (already, companies including Real Networks, ArcSoft, Corel and CyberLink have expressed support for HyperSpace). Until then, paying $40 per year (or more) for instant-on/off capabilities might seem a bit steep for most users. If I can be on the road and avoid the Windows boot-up altogether (or at least 80% of the time), that would be well worth it.
Grade: 2 stars (out of five).