Dual-boot machines will do mobile and desktop duties

Apple, HP, and ViewSonic may soon roll out portable computers that jump between fast mobile platforms and full-featured desktop OSes

The days of needing a desktop computer and a portable system may be numbered. Various hardware vendors appear to be working on dual-boot hybrid systems that will come loaded with two operating systems: a fat, full-featured desktop OS and a fast, lightweight mobile-oriented OS.

The idea here is that an on-the-go user can quickly get at his or her lightweight apps, or the Internet, in a near instant on a conveniently large screen. Not only is that a time saver and an eyeball saver; it's a battery saver. For heavier lifting, whether at Starbucks or in the office, he or she can settle in and boot up Windows or Mac OS.

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One such system may be coming from Apple. The company has reportedly filed a patent for an iMac Touch machine that transforms from a portable touchscreen tablet into a stand-up desktop system using a fold-out swivel base. According to Patently Apple, the patent also outlines how system would switch between Mac OS X and iOS.

Pocket-Lint, meanwhile, is reporting ViewSonic may be planning to launch a machine that can dual-boot Windows and Microsoft's excellent Windows Mobile OS. Oh, wait -- Microsoft doesn't have an excellent mobile OS (yet?). This machine would actually have a version of Android as its lightweight alternative platform.

HP, too, has an eye on a hybrid system, most certainly featuring WebOS for the light loads and Windows for the heavy duties. Signaling this move, the company last month acquired a technology called HyperSpace from Phoenix Technologies, which enables a Windows machine to start up a second OS in mere moments, eliminating the need for a full boot if a user just wants to hit the Web.

The ability to pair a lightweight and a heavyweight platform on a single device -- or even two lightweight platforms -- portends that all computing devices, including netbooks, notebooks, slates, tablets, handhelds, e-readers, and son on, will be able to run more and more handy (and entertaining) lightweight applications, purchasable and downloadable from any number of app stores.

Also, platform restrictions will become less of a barrier, too: If a user can run Windows and Mac OS X from a single desktop machine today, perhaps he or she will be able to move between Android and iOS, or WebOS and Android, tomorrow.

This article, "Dual-boot machines will do mobile and desktop duties," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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