Microsoft pointed to its storage partners. "Based on feedback from partners, Microsoft moved the requirement [for the Windows Vista Premium PC logo] out, as frequently happens if Microsoft does not feel partners have enough time to absorb, or the technology wont be available in production volumes in time," a company spokesperson said.According to Michael Hall, manager for Seagates desktop and notebook storage press relations, the company is on track to ship its hybrid drive toward the end of the first quarter. In addition, Don Barnetson, director of flash marketing for Samsung Semiconductor, said in late 2006 meeting that the company was expecting a Q1 release for its hybrid drive. Toshiba, which makes notebooks, hard drives and flash (the No. 2 manufacturer), has hybrid sample drives and prototypes out at "various OEMs and infrastructure builders," according to Patty Kim, product marketing manager with Toshiba America Information Systems Storage Systems division. She wouldnt set a date for volume shipments. So, whether there will be enough production to fill demand for hybrid drives may be less than an open question. Still, at the moment, there appears to be little to no downstream demand from the mobile system vendors. The storage industry is addressing the demand situation with the Hybrid Storage Alliance, which was announced in early January at the Storage Visions conference in Las Vegas. The founding members include Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Samsung Electronics, Seagate Technology and Toshiba America Information Systems. Read more here about the Hybrid Storage Alliance. The members hope to evangelize the drives with existing customers as well as with system vendors. "The purpose of the association is to educate the market and make people comfortable with the benefits of hybrid disks," Kim said. Shes on the list of spokespersons for the alliance and said acceptance of hybrid drives requires a coordinated effort. "People havent seen demonstrations of the drive," Hall said. "Once its in systems and people see it, it will turn some heads. Then it will take off," he predicted. Still, how long will it take for a word-of-mouth campaign to build enough demand to persuade system vendors to build hybrid drives into standard notebooks? Will notebook makers even want to offer hybrid HDDs as an option? While Vistas support for these flash technologies has the promise of performance gains and ROI improvement for end users, the technology bumps up against the usual low-ball pricing in the PC market. As system vendors seek to eek out a bit more profit, theres little pressure to add or support an untried technology that few customers understand or know about, and worse, costs more than ordinary flashless drives. Everything seemed so easy last summer, when Microsoft marketing managers rolled out the PowerPoint presentations on hybrid drives. And depending on the outcome of the storage education project, Microsoft may need another dose of flexibility when it comes to enforcing the 2008 deadline for Premium Mobile systems. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and small-business storage hardware and software.
However, a number of storage vendors said drives would be ready in the 2007 time frame.