HP Buys HyperSpace OS From Phoenix, But What Are They Thinking?

Hewlett Packard is set to purchase the Hyperspace instant-on OS from Phoenix Technologies. Don't remember HyperSpace OS? We'll never forget this technology that had so much promise in theory, but turned out to be rather disappointing in practice.

We first got a taste of Hyperspace back in January 2009. The slimmed down version of Linux was a competitor to DeviceVM's popular Splashtop preboot OS, but it had a few unique twists. First, unlike Splashtop, which must come preinstalled in select notebooks, HyperSpace was also available as a download that end users could install. Second, HyperSpace was available in both  dual boot and "hybrid" versions.

Hyperspace Hybrid worked on only a handful of notebooks that offered Intel Virtualization Technology, but it was unique in that it allowed users to run Windows and HyperSpace at the same exact time, with the ability to toggle between the two operating systems using the F4 key. What was really happening in hybrid mode was that HyperSpace was running Windows in a virtual machine. In our limited experience, this was exciting but a little dicey as we were unable to install Hybrid on any of our notebooks and the original test system from Phoenix that we tried seemed slow and crashed Windows Vista a few times. We later got to test HyperSpace Office, which was a productivity suite that was added to HyperSpace and were impressed by its potential as well.

HyperSpace's biggest drawback was not its technology, but its ambitious pricing. Instead of purchasing the software, users had to buy a subscription to it, with a length of one or three years. If the subscription ran out, the software would stop working. So to use HyperSpace Hybrid for three years, users had to commit $149.95. That's more than Windows 7 costs most users. Perhaps this is why Phoenix stopped selling HyperSpace last fall and put a page up on its site saying that HyperSpace 2.0 was "coming soon." That page remains live today, more than 6 months later.

And now that HP has reportedly bought HyperSpace for $12 million, we expect to see this technology finally reach its full potential, not as a subscription service but as a feature of HP notebooks and netbooks. Today, many HP notebooks feature QuickWeb, a browser-only version of Splashtop. But tomorrow, HP may use HyperSpace instead. Here's hoping they get the hybrid mode running smoothly.