Announced this morning at the second annual Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit is a new open-source driver development initiative. VIA Technologies has announced its strategic open-source driver development initiative. VIA will be providing technical specifications, source-code, and other information regarding their latest products. In addition, they'll be opening a new web-site devoted to its new Linux efforts.
The more money they save using FOSS and avoiding the M$ tax, the more resources they can afford to put into making their hardware work better on Linux. It's interesting to note that the MyMiniPC uses Intel prcessors/graphics chips, presumebly because VIA chips can't do Compiz yet. Once they get the VIA graphics drivers in shape, VIA won't have to use chips from their competitors.
I don't think you need much changes to run splashtop, the biggest change would be a huger flash memory chip. You can strip down Linux pretty much, when you don't use udev to load a very modular kernel and use fixed vesa framebuffer (similar to damn small linux) then you can get extra fast startup time. But startup time is not everything, when you are used to higher refresh rates, Xv accelleration and such things you need a different approach. Basically without hw detection you would only need to change the part which loads the network driver. "Old" hotplug for usb devices maybe...
I hope this means public datasheets/manuals. I tried to get manuals out of VIA once, to fix a problem I was having with the Rhine driver in Plan 9. Without going into details, let's say that the Linux driver ended up being a much more reasonable source of information - which still means that I had to parse another driver's idiosyncrasies to even have a chance of finding the info I needed. And while Linux is quite functional, it's generally not the prettiest thing ever to read.
The kicker is that the datasheet I needed apparently used to be on VIA's public ftp.