New laptops leap hurdles to booting up quickly

— -- Computer makers are starting to tackle a road warrior pet peeve: laptops that take too long to boot up.

Taking a cue from instant-on smartphones, laptop manufacturers are introducing models that can be turned on within seconds for the most frequently used software.

"A lot of times, people just want to get to something very fast in their computer. They want it to be like an appliance — turn it on and off," says Mark Lee, CEO of DeviceVM, whose software Splashtop is installed in some Hewlett-Packard and ASUS laptops.

Laptops can take up to five or more minutes to be turned on and ready for use, depending on their age and the amount of software and junk files in the hard drive. The older the computer, the longer it takes to boot.

An instant-on feature, such as Splashtop, gets around the problem by avoiding Microsoft Windows. Push the button, and in a few seconds, a Linux-based "mini-operating system" is activated. It lets you use some popular tools, such as an Internet browser, Web e-mail and instant messaging, as well as make Skype phone calls and open attachments.

The feature also extends the battery power, since only a small portion of the laptop's computing power is consumed, Lee says.

One of the first PC makers to introduce the feature was Taiwan-based ASUS, which installed Splashtop earlier this year in its laptops.

Splashtop, which was voted one of the 10 most innovative products by industry magazine PC World, is getting another high-profile customer later this year, when HP Voodoo Envy laptops will begin shipping to customers with the feature embedded.

HP says another set of new laptops to be released later this year — called EliteBook — will also be equipped with an instant-on feature.

Dell says its new laptops — Dell Latitude E4200 and E4300 — will contain a similar feature, called Latitude On. It gives you "instant access to all the central functions," such as e-mail, calendar, Internet and contacts, says Dell spokesman Jeremy Bolen.

Lenovo, the maker of ThinkPad computers, also has started selling a new line of laptops — IdeaPad Netbook — that feature an instant-on technology, says spokesman Ray Gorman.

One of the drawbacks of the software is that the rest of the laptop remains shut off while it's running. In order to turn on Windows, the user has to exit the instant-on software.

DeviceVM's Lee says the company is working on a new version that would allow users to boot Windows while using Splashtop.

Phoenix Technologies, a Milpitas, Calif.-based technology firm, says it's also developing a competitor to Splashtop that would let users instantly turn on the laptop for simple tools while booting up Windows.

TELL US: How much does the slow bootup on your laptop bother you? Does this rank high or low on your list of traveling pet peeves?