Report has Intel Eyeing SSD for Notebooks

Intel plans to bundle 80GB solid state drives into its upcoming mobile platform, according to a published report.

Intel is looking to bundle solid state drive technology into its upcoming Centrino 2 platform for notebooks, which is scheduled to launch in late June, according to a published report.

The chip giant will first add an SSD with a capacity of 80GB and a SATA (Serial ATA) interface to the platform, which has been code-named Montevina, by the third quarter of 2008, with 160GB and 250GB technology to follow, according to a May 23 report from Digitimes.

More and more PC vendors are turning to SSDs this year as a way to differentiate their notebooks from the competition. Within weeks of each other, Apple and Lenovo each announced that their new notebooks would include SSD technology, which offers a number of benefits for users, including better battery life and lighter, more portable notebooks.

An Intel spokesperson declined to comment on the report, saying the company does not "comment on rumor or speculation."

However, Intel has shown an interest in SSD technology before and the company does have the capability of making its own NAND flash-based memory or incorporating third-party technology into its PC platforms.

In December, Intel showed its Z-P140 PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) SSD, which will be included with Centrino Atom, its new platform for mobile Internet devices. These SSDs will first come with 2GB and 4GB capacities before ramping up to 16GB by late 2008.

Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said Intel definitely has the ability to bundle the SSD into its mobile platform and create an attractive package for vendors that want to add the option in a new generation of notebooks.

In all likelihood, Intel will create a reference design for its OEM partners and even white-box PC vendors and provide them with the specification to create notebooks using the SSD options along with the company's processors and chip sets.

The promise of SSD

While there are numerous benefits to using SSD, including that the drives are quieter, use less power, give off less heat and offer faster boot times, the price of NAND memory is still a factor. Right now, a 64GB SSD can add $800 to $1000 to a notebook's cost, but Kay said he believes that prices will continue to drop about 50 percent per year, which makes the technology more attractive and gives Intel a reason to seriously consider using it with its platforms.

"The way people are looking at it is that when you get a 128GB for a thousand-dollar premium, now you have a capacity that is sufficient for people to use it as a main system," Kay said. "When you look at 64GB, it's a little tight for most people. So 128GB is still pretty good, but its still [more than] a thousand bucks, but you go out to 2010 and now you have a 128GB for $500 and that begins to sound like a very reasonable platform."

When Intel launches its new platform in June, all of the major OEMs are expected to offer a new series of notebooks built around the platform, which use the company's 45-nanometer processors and a new technology called "Eco Peak," which will integrate both WiMax and Wi-Fi technology in the silicon.

Intel will offer dual-core chips as part of the Centrino 2 platform before moving into quad-core processors for laptops later in 2008. In 2009, it will roll out another new platform code-named Calpella.

Advanced Micro Devices is expected to release its own new platform for laptops in the early part of June, called "Puma."