Samsung disclosed May 17 that the first of its new solid-state hybrid hard drives, a next-generation drive for laptop and desktop computers that combines Flash memory with traditional rotating magnetic storage, is ready for prime time.
Samsung says these new drives, announced at WinHEC 2005, will save eight to 25 seconds in booting up and can extend the units battery life by 8 percent to 10 percent.
The magnetic storage part of the drive will provide the high-storage densities found in standard hard-drive technology, while the Flash section of the drive will provide the reliability, the fast read-write access, and the low-power consumption, Samsung said.
When flash memory is being used, the hard drive remains idle, which, according to Samsung, can save battery power and make the drive less susceptible to damage.
The hard drive spins to "flush out" memory a few times every 10 to 20 minutes, then returns to its idle state unless it is needed.
The company said it will demonstrate HHDs in both 128MB and 256MB cache densities at WinHEC in Seattle, Wash., from May 23 to 25.
Samsung said it will schedule individual demos to current customers beginning in July and plans a full product launch under the ReadyDrive brand name in January 2007.
Microsoft sees the product as complementing the upcoming Windows Vista operating system.
"Hybrid hard disks and Windows ReadyDrive Technology are integrated advancements that improve the performance and reliability of computers using Windows Vista, especially notebook computers," said Mike Sievert, Microsofts corporate vice president in the Windows Client Marketing division, in a statement.
Industry observers were divided on the value and viability of the hybrid approach.
"These kinds of drives have the best of both worlds, and this could be a great drive for consumers wanting to use their PCs for entertainment," said Nicole dOnofrio, an analyst at research firm Current Analysis.
"I estimate well see other manufacturers with hybrids by the end of this year or beginning of 2007."
But Joseph Unsworth, a principal analyst at Gartner, questioned whether Intels upcoming Robson technology could overtake this market need.
"Robson offers flash right on the chip set," he said. "Were going to see a lot of notebooks with Robson, and you dont need Vista to run it."
He said he expects Robson to be out in the first quarter of 2007.
Gartner analyst John Monroe downplayed the value of the Samsung HHD technology.
"There is nothing new in having cache on a hard drive—its been done for years," he said.
"The basic difference here is that it is bigger and nonvolatile. The main reason you would need it is because Vista takes so long to boot."
With mobile devices, it might have some value, he said. "But probably not with desktop machines, which are often left on."