HyperSpace, the 'instant-on' operating system for laptops, just got a shot in the arm in the form of productivity applications that can handle most Microsoft Office documents. But will this addition be enough to convince people to subscribe?
Here's my original post on HyperSpace, from Phoenix Technologies, in which I question the logic of a subscription model for an operating system.
Despite my reservations, Phoenix is committed to this practice. But they aren't standing still either. While the original premise of HyperSpace was to offer laptop users a way to boot their machines quickly in order to access websites via a browser, it now looks like Phoenix has nothing less than Windows-replacement on their product roadmap.
Launched yesterday, a new suite of productivity apps – called HyperSpace Office – is now available to HyperSpace users at no extra charge. The suite lets users perform word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tasks (think Word, Excel and PowerPoint) without ever having to boot up Windows. The apps were created by ThinkFree, a company that offers both cloud-based and client-based alternatives to the massively popular Microsoft Office suite. As an aside, ThinkFree's own blog contains a "first look" at HyperSpace Office though we can't vouch for its objectivity.
So now we have the beginnings of a more compelling offer. For $39.95 USD a year, you can equip your laptop with an instant-on OS that runs a free competitor (though not as fully featured) to Microsoft Office.
The question is, is this enough value for the money? I suspect that for the casual laptop user, the answer will remain 'no'. But HyperSpace isn't intended for the casual user. Phoenix is going after the road warrior. People who find themselves in places like airports, the back seats of cabs or random Starbucks locations around the world with only 30 minutes to an hour before their next appointment.
These users want to get productive in a hurry and though they probably carry a smartphone with them at all times, they can't bear the idea of trying to modify a 15 column spreadsheet on a 3 inch screen.
For them, $40 a year to save valuable minutes might seem like a bargain. Moreover, they probably won't be paying for it personally. The same folks who equipped them with their BlackBerry will foot the bill for HyperSpace too – and why not – it's all about productivity.
It's not going to stop here either. According to Phoenix's PR agency, the company has plans for "something similar to the Apple app store" where users will be able to download even more software that will run on the HyperSpace OS.
While I would still like to see Phoenix come out with a one-time price for people who just want to add instant-on to their laptops, it's clear that the subscription model isn't going anywhere anytime soon.