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PC Mag online has a post about the Phoenix Pre-Boot shell that’s pretty cool. Some computers and laptops have had pre-boot environments for years but they were proprietary to that make and model computer. Now Phoenix has launched downloadable versions at CES 2009 that you can install on any laptop (that has an AMD or Intel chipset with virtualization technology).

What is a “pre-boot shell” you ask? It’s an environment that loads instantly when your PC starts – before you ever get to windows. This is usually based on Linux, and the cool things is now manufacturer are starting to add features that allow you to perform basic tasks without ever booting into Windows. Just need a web browser, or quick access to Amazon or flickR? These pre-boot shells have wi-fi built in so you can do basic web tasks on the fly in seconds without booting. Phoenix claims as much as 25% increase in savings to your battery charge.

I think it’s funny in a way that “once again” Linux is being used as an innovator where Microsoft falls flat. On the one hand you could say that Windows Vista had too many versions to choose from, but on the other hand Linux is so very flexible that it can be used on a phone, for a pre-boot shell, on a thumb drive, or in a cable box.

In a way – the simplistic features of the pre-boot shell remind me of when I tried gOS, the version of Linux that is famously installed on the WalMart budget PC’s that were $199 last year. It has huge icons at the bottom toolbar with most-oft-used web functions, like MySpace, Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Firefox, etc.

If any of you are interested in what the pre-boot shell could be like, I invite you to download a copy of the latest Ubuntu Linux for free, burn it to a CD and run it “live”. You can try out Linux on your Windows laptop or desktop without installing a thing.

Isn’t Linux great?