Dell made a big splash this week with their notebook line announcement and a big part of that was touting their new instant on feature. According to Dell this is a hardware based system subset that lets you bypass Windows and turn your notebook on to do common tasks. Dell has intimated these tasks to include check your PIM data, schedule, contacts, email, so that you can quickly check information without having to fire up the entire Windows system. Details are now emerging that lends some additional information to this process. Dell is telling us that this instant on subsystem will be polling for email and server syncing while the notebook is not running so that when you pop it on your information is fresh. This has some ramifications that Dell is not delving into yet but I’m sure they will start divulging more details soon.
It has been stated that the hardware subsystem Dell is using is ARM-based, a processor commonly used in Windows Mobile PDAs. This is the same approach taken by HTC with their maligned Shift UMPC that also used a PDA system to do many of the tasks that Dell is mentioning. The HTC implementation was based on Windows CE which was fairly crippled so all you could do was check information, not create content. Dell is stating emphatically that you will be able to create content which implies you can create and reply to email, add contacts and schedule items, etc. The HTC implementation also polled for email at user defined intervals regardless of the on state of the notebook so we can infer that you will need integrated WWAN, or 3G, like the Shift includes. That’s about the only way a notebook can poll servers for information even if the system is not running.
The Dell system is said to be LInux-based although they are not providing any details. They have indicated that in addition to working with your PIM data you will also be able to surf the web. This sounds very much like the SplashTop system from DeviceVM that we saw early this year at the CES. That is a Linux-based hardware solution that is embedded on many notebook boards by Asus. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It is interesting that there seems to be a rush to provide these types of subsystems on notebooks, kind of a netbook on a chip system. It appears that HTC was ahead of the curve with the Shift after all.
Here’s a discussion Dell had about the new system: