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60% Of All Notebooks Will Use Flash Memory In Two Years

By the fourth quarter of 2009, 24 million notebook PCs, or 60% of the total sold, will have flash data storage, iSuppli predicts.
The number of new notebook computers using some form of flash memory for data storage will soar from a negligible amount today to more than 50% in two years, a research firm predicted Wednesday.

By the fourth quarter of 2009, 24 million notebook PCs, or 60% of the total sold, will have flash data storage, compared with only 143,600 in the first quarter of 2007, iSuppli predicted. The latter number amounts to only 0.7% of the total number of new notebooks.

Flash memory has a number of advantages over conventional hard-disk drives. With no moving parts, flash memory hardware uses less power, generates little heat, and is more resistant to shock, all major plusses for use in portable computers. Retrieval of data from flash memory devices also is faster.

The major hurdle for the technology, however, is price. Flash memory today is much more expensive than hard-disk drives. The price is expected to come down as competition and production levels increase. "Enabling the use of flash data storage in PCs is the dramatic decline in prices for NAND-type memory parts employed in such solutions," iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins said in a statement.

Four years ago, 1 Gbyte of flash memory was nearly 100 times more expensive as an equivalent amount of HDD, or hard-disk drive, storage, according to iSuppli. By 2009, the price gap is expected to fall to a factor of slightly less than 14. While still expensive when compared with HDD storage, the lower price, in combination with flash memory's advantages, are expected to be enough to drive adoption.

ISuppli sees three approaches to flash data storage evolving over the next couple of years: Intel's Robson, hybrid hard-disk drives, and solid-state drives. Robson is the code name for a platform technology that uses flash memory to increase system responsiveness, make multitasking faster, and extend battery life.

Manufacturers have been ramping up production of flash memory devices. Samsung, for example, recently introduced a 64-Gbyte solid-state flash drive for ultra-portable notebooks. The South Korean company unveiled the 1.8-inch drive at its annual Mobile Solution Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, and said it planned to start mass production in this quarter.

Fujitsu in April said it was halting plans to make a 1.8-inch hard-disk drive for handheld devices to focus on flash drives, the preferred technology among manufacturers. Fujitsu's HDD had been aimed at ultra-portable notebooks and digital media players, such as the Apple iPod.

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