Instant On: Waiting Gets The Boot

HP Pavilion dv1000 with "QuickPlay" technology is introduced at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006. The newest notebook computer from HP lets users instantly play audio or video DVDs and CDs with a simple push of a button and without the need to first boot the Microsoft Corp. Windows operating system.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Tick. Tick. Tick. The dreaded waiting period
for a computer to boot up is all too familiar.
Even the pilot on my flight to Las Vegas this week told
passengers they would have to wait for a few minutes - "like how
your computer has to boot up at home" - as he restarted the engine
before takeoff.
But airplanes aside, time-weary consumers who increasingly rely
on laptops, PCs and other electronic devices to watch movies or
listen to music are demanding immediate gratification.
The tech industry is responding.
Evidence of an instant-on movement peppered the International
Consumer Electronics Show here.
Toshiba Corp. showed off new notebooks with its "Express Media
Player," which lets users instantly play audio or video DVDs and
CDs with a simple push of a button and without the need to first
boot the Microsoft Corp. Windows operating system.
The Japanese electronics giant was among the first to feature a
no-waiting TV mode in 2004 with its Qosmio multimedia laptop.
It then began to put the boot-less mode on its high-end models.
This year, Toshiba plans to integrate the feature in about 80
percent of its models.
Hewlett-Packard Co. also introduced similar "QuickPlay"
technology in one laptop over a year ago. It has since expanded it
across four model lines, including its newest HP Pavilion dv1000
debuting at CES.
"Eventually every notebook will have this capability in the
next couple of years," said Carl Pinto, a Toshiba product
development director. "As digital convergence has made notebooks
more of an entertainment device, the whole concept is to make it
operate more like a DVD player or other consumer electronics."
Put it this way: How long do you wait after you push the power
button to get your radio, digital camera or cell phone to start
working? Maybe 10 or 15 seconds if your handset is a smartphone. By
contrast, it still typically takes anywhere from two to four
minutes for a computer to boot up its operating system and be ready
for duty.
Microsoft, whose nearly ubiquitous Windows platform is expanding
into ever more mobile and entertainment-oriented gadgets, knows
improvements are needed. It promises to address that issue in its
upcoming Windows upgrade, called Vista, due for release by the end
of the year.
In one such feature, called Sideshow, laptops would be able to
retrieve phone contacts, to-do lists or other organizer-type files
- all without the need to turn on the machine or boot up the main
operating system. Instead, users could instantly access that data,
which would be displayed on a small screen embedded in the
notebook's lid.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed a prototype of the SideShow
technology during his keynote Wednesday night.
PortalPlayer Inc., which is providing Microsoft with the
semiconductors and software components for Sideshow, says its
technology would even allow for PowerPoint presentations to be
displayed or controlled from the small touch screen.
Some laptop prototypes were on display at CES but notebook
makers are not expected to incorporate "Preface" technology until
after Windows Vista is released, said Arman Toorians, senior
director of technical marketing at PortalPlayer.
Companies could also apply the technology to multimedia
computers, Toorians said.
In the meantime, Intel Corp.'s new Viiv platform of technologies
for home entertainment PCs will also allow users to instantly turn
their machines on or off after an initial boot.
The feature actually amounts to something of a deception: It
works by making the PC only appear to be off by powering down the
monitor, audio and external LED lights of the system.
In the "off" state, the machine is actually operating normally
and capable of doing tasks such as recording a TV show.
The technology appears to be similar to a new feature called
"Away Mode" on some current PCs running Microsoft's Windows XP
Media Center Edition.