Splashtop Launches New Instant-On OS, Free Download for All

We've long admired Splashtop, the instant-on OS that boots quickly and provides simple web browsing, photo viewing, and other basic tasks faster than you can say "Windows 7 Home Premium" three times backwards. But, up until now, Splashtop has only been available on select notebooks and netbooks that have it preloaded and customized to the vendor's specifications. So, HP ProBooks have a version of Splashtop which is called QuickWeb and ASUS's notebooks call their Splashtop Express Gate, but if your notebook didn't come with it, you were out of luck. Today, that's all changing.

As of this morning, Splashtop is making available a free, downloadable version of Splashtop called Splashtop OS that anyone can install. By heading to os.splashtop.com and downloading the install file to your Windows notebook and then running it, you can install the new operating system.

At present, Splashtop OS is in beta. This beta version is only tested to work on a handful of HP laptops, including the HP mini 110, Compaq Mini CA10, HP Mini 210, HP pavilion dm4, HP Pavilion dv4, HP Pavilion dv5, HP Pavlilion dv6, and HP Pavilion dv7. However, Dave Bottoms, Splashtop Inc's Senior Director of Product Management, told us that the company plans to make the software work on most PCs by the time it comes out of beta sometime next year.

The downloadable version of Splashtop OS is more streamlined than other preloaded versions, giving you just the browser, instead of the suite of apps you'll find in most versions. There's no photo gallery, music player, Skype, or instant messenger, because the company wants to keep things simple for users. According to Bottoms, Splashtop's own research shows that 86-percent of current Splashtop usage takes place in the browser so why force users to choose which app they want when most are going to choose the browser anyway.

When users first boot into Splashtop, they'll be presented with a Bing search box and thumbnails of the four most visited viewed web pages and the five most recently closed tabs  (see the picture at the top of this post). Once you choose which web page you want or initiate a search, the browser launches. Unlike previous versions of Splashtop that used Mozilla-based browsers, Splashtop OS's browser is based on Google Chromium for added speed. It also has a number of plug-ins preloaded, including Flash 10.1.

We haven't had a chance to test Splashtop OS yet, but Bottoms told us that it should take 5 seconds from power-on to the initial splash screen and then several seconds longer to connect to Wi-FI and launch the browser. He said that, even before you type in your search query or click on a link from the home page, the browser has already started loading in the background to save you time.

At present, Splashtop OS is based on its own proprietary Linux code. However, back in September, we reported that Splashtop is being ported to the new Meego OS. Bottoms told us that, in the near future, Splashtop OS will be ported to Meego as promised and will include an app store that will let you add new programs. Even without these additional apps, Splashtop OS is sure to provide a quick and easy way to look up information or check your web-based email without waiting a long time for your notebook to boot.

Bottoms also said that the company will continue to produce custom versions of Splashtop that come preloaded on select notebooks and desktops. Users who install the downloadable Splashtop OS on a computer that already has another version of Splashtop preloaded will override the original Splashtop, but will be able to revert back to it by changing a setting.

To learn more about Splashtop OS, visit os.splashtop.com and check out the video and gallery below.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.