Abstraction seems to be the trend in the tech world: “rich” websites such as Gmail abstract the application from the operating system. XML abstracts data exchanges. Plugins extend a basic application’s usefulness. And now IBM is developing a user environment called SoulPad for an iPod: a virtual computer takes care of hardware interactions, so users can carry around their iPods (or other portable drives), using them on various physical machines.
IBM conducted its tests on a 60GB iPod photo using Knoppix, a Linux software derivative, as an auto-configuration OS, VMware Workstation as the virtual machine monitor and an x86 PC as the encrypted virtual machine. That is where the SoulPad software partitions personal applications such as Microsoft Word or the Firefox Web browser, along with the guest operating system and personal data the user would like to carry around.
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While traveling, Caceres said the user could attach the SoulPad to a lighter laptop and switch back to a more powerful laptop while not traveling. Similarly, an insurance worker could insert his or her SoulPad into a tablet PC for on-site appraisals, then into a desktop PC for other work.