A software company is developing a BIOS enabling what we'd have thought impossible: running Windows apps without having to Boot the OS itself.

US company Phoenix Technologies is developing software, called HyperSpace, that enables you to start your commonly used apps with the F4 key. Phoenix is already responsible for much of the BIOS code that starts up our PCs.

Windows is too complex

"As Windows gets more and more complex, we've seen startup times get longer and longer," Phoenix CEO Woody Hobbs told Wired. "If I go to the airport and try to connect to a Wi-Fi network, I'm waiting for five minutes just to connect. That's ridiculous - people usually just give up and use their cell phones or PDAs."

The HyperSpace platform is enabled by an efficient hypervisor from Phoenix called HyperCore. It's embedded within the BIOS and runs on top of it.

HyperSpace can, according to Phoenix, run most Windows software. Hobbs told Wired that the software would take the PC out of the hands of Microsoft and give control to system builders to implement what they wanted on systems. This means that, for example, a business orientated system could come pre-loaded with mobility tools and office software for basic use within HyperSpace.

In pursuit of "instant on"

"Users want their work and personal lives to be empowered by an instant-on and always available PC with ubiquitous network access and easy-to-use applications," reckons Leslie Fiering, a research head at Gartner.

"The industry will welcome a solution that holds the promise of satisfying both PC user needs as well as IT remote management and security needs."

But, understandably, not everyone feels that way. A certain Seattle-based organisation isn't too happy with the development. Hobbs says Microsoft regards HyperSpace as "outside their sphere of influence," yet Intel is "really excited" about the potential of HyperSpace and has been working with Phoenix to ensure it works with all their chips.

AMD is also working with Phoenix on the project to ensure compatibility with its Virtualisation software.

We could start seeing the technology implemented on systems late next year.