Run Presto Instant-On OS on Existing Systems

The ability to have a PC turn on instantly, providing immediate access to the operating system, files, applications, and network connections has long been a pipe dream. This pie-in-the-sky concept has only recently started to see some traction with alternative, "instant-on" operating systems (OS) that come built into the firmware of some newer systems. Today, however, system management tools provider, Xandros, introduced a new instant-on OS called Presto, that can be installed on virtually any Windows XP or Vista system.

Just like the popular instant-on OS solution, DeviceVM's SplashTop, Presto is a small-footprint version of Linux that comes with mostly Web-based applications (Presto is based on Debian Linux). SplashTop, however, can only run on systems or motherboards that come with the feature preinstalled, as it resides on a system's firmware. That limits SplashTop's availability to a very limited number of new systems and motherboards--although, Asus does appear to be including its version of SplashTop, which Asus calls ExpressGate, on more and more of its mobile and desktop systems and motherboards. Presto has the advantage that it doesn't require any special hardware and it can be installed on older, existing systems. In fact, Presto's only requirements are 4GB of available hard disk space and Windows XP or Vista already installed on the system. Xandros claims that Presto loads "within seconds," and allows you to:
  • Browse the web securely using Firefox
  • Chat using instant messaging (IM)
  • Make free Skype calls
  • Listen to music and watch videos
  • View and edit documents created in Microsoft Office
  • Download games, music, videos and more through the Presto online store

Presto will become available on March 16, where it will be available as a free beta download from the Presto Website. Until Presto is released, it is unknown what the specific app bundle will be, but it is likely to include all free, open source applications, as OpenOffice. There will also be a Presto Application Store, where additional applications can be downloaded and purchased for Presto. Presto is scheduled to officially launch on April 13 and sell for $19.95--the beta is set to expire on April 12. You will also be able to download a trial version of Presto starting on April 13, which will operate for "10 minutes at a time (indefinitely)."

Presto installs and uninstalls via Windows. It modifies the system's bootstapping process, giving you the option of booting into Presto or into Windows. After 20 seconds it will boot into Windows if there is no user response. Presto supports Wi-Fi, 3G, and Ethernet-based networked connections. It can not only access your network shares, but it can even access files and documents stored in the system's Windows folders.

"The first time you run Presto, it needs to figure out what network connections, video cards, and other system hardware are inside your computer so it can configure itself properly. Presto is pretty good at detecting the many combinations of technology that exist. However, there's a chance that your particular computer contains something that Presto doesn’t recognize."

Xandros claims that Presto is the only instant-on OS option that does not require special hardware. That is actually not a true statement, as Phoenix Technologies' HyperSpace instant-on OS is also available as a software-only solution. And while Xandros is making Presto available to consumers, it is also offering the OS to OEMs as well, who could conceivably integrated Presto in a system's firmware. 
Tags:  Linux, Instant-on