Want to check your e-mail without waiting for your computer to boot up? Phoenix Technologies has produced an upgraded version of its FirstWare Assistant software that includes support for e-mail.

The latest version will let users of laptops and tablets running Phoenix's cME (core Managed Environment) software view their e-mail over Microsoft's Outlook, without launching the Windows operating system, the company said at Cebit.

By pressing a "hot button" the user will gain read-only access to e-mail and personal data, such as calendars, notes and contacts, effectively turning their laptop into a PDA, Phoenix said. It claims the information will be available as soon as six seconds after the button is pressed, instead of the minutes it takes to boot up a machine.

The first version of FirstWare Assistant, released in September 2003, only gave access to personal information manager data from Outlook, including calendars and contacts.

Phoenix's cME software allows secure system management and restoration independent of the operating system. The company has not released any pricing details.