Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Flash memory enters the HD industry

NEW WAVE While too expensive to fully penetrate the market at the moment, use of solid-state drives and hybrid hard drives is expected to increase quickly in the future

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

With more computer vendors putting flash memory into PCs to replace traditional hard drives, two new flash drives will soon make it into the spotlight, a market researcher said.

Penetration of solid-state drives (SSDs) in notebooks will reach 12 percent by the end of 2009, El Segundo, California-based iSuppli Corp said in a report released on Monday.

By contrast, hybrid hard drives (HHDs) will be deployed in 35 percent of all notebook PCs within the same timeframe, the report said.

Both SSDs and HHDs are intended to replace conventional hard disk drives by using flash memory instead of rotating media. While SSDs only use flash, HHDs use both flash memory and hard drives to create a hybrid solution.

These new flash drives will make computers run faster, more resistant to shock and less energy consuming.

One of the latest examples of the emerging trend was the announcement by Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦), the world's largest motherboard maker, early this month that it will launch a super low-cost computer, Eee PC, which uses SSD.

During the Computex trade fair in Taipei, Asustek said that using SSD will give the US$199 Eee PC a great shock-proof advantage over traditional notebook PCs, allowing for extra flexibility and a worry-free mobile computing experience.

"SSDs and HHDs have a clear performance advantage compared to traditional hard drives," Krishna Chander, iSuppli senior analyst of storage research, wrote in the report.

But penetration of HHDs in notebook PCs will rise more quickly in the near term than SSDs, as the former costs less to produce and offers a level of data integrity that can only be delivered by existing hard drive technology, Chander said.

As prices for notebook hard drives have dropped dramatically in the first half of this year, HHDs will have an advantage over SSDs in terms of absolute capacity and cost per gigabyte, the analyst said.

While SSDs are receiving much attention in light of advances in their storage capacity, Chander said performance and capacity increases of HHDs will occur at a faster pace than those of SSDs.

For now, the cost of HHDs and SSDs will remain a prohibitive factor for mass-market adoption. Prices will only diminish in the coming years and lead to a much wider usage, iSuppli said.

In addition to HHDs and SSDs, another approach to PC flash memory storage is Intel Corp's recently introduced Robson technology, also known as Turbo Memory.

As any type of hard drive can use Turbo Memory, this solution will penetrate the market faster than HHDs, which still face standardization problems, iSuppli said.

The combination of SSDs, HHDs, Turbo Memory and other solutions should propel the market penetration of flash memory used for notebook-PC data storage to nearly 60 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009, the researcher said.

Computer vendors including Fujitsu Ltd, Toshiba Corp and Samsung Electronics Co have signified an interest in using flash drives in their future products.

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