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Solid-state flash disks lead storage revolution

Computex and CES highlight efficient, robust drives

Laptops with solid-state disks are plentiful at Computex. Flash memory-based solid-state disks are on course to quickly replace hard-disk drives in laptop computers, if the evidence of this year's Computex tradeshow is to be trusted.

Computex brings together the world's most important PC manufacturers and component makers with buyers from around the world, so it is a good gauge of the direction of the industry.

Solid-state disks are lighter and quieter than hard drives. Flash-memory disks use less power and are sturdier than hard drives.

See also: Via unleashes ultraportable PC

The transition to solid-state disks is being accelerated by fast price drops in the flash market. An 8GB chip that cost around £6 at the end of 2006 currently costs about £4 on the spot market. That's a big drop in six months.

SanDisk debuted its first SSD (solid-state disk), a 32GB model, at January's CES tradeshow. A mere six months later at Computex SanDisk is showing a 64GB model. The company says much higher-capacity drives are possible today but will be too expensive, so it's increasing the capacity of its drives while keeping them at what it considers the sweet-spot of price and storage space.

Like SSDs from competitors, the SanDisk drives are offered as drop-in replacements for 1.8in and 2.5in hard-disk drives and so can be offered by system makers without the need for any modifications. As SSDs become more common the company believes smaller form-factor drives will be used in machines specifically produced for solid-state storage.

"The old technology of the hard disk is going to go away from the mobile PC market and be replaced by [solid state] media," said Doreet Oren, director of product marketing at SanDisk's computing solutions division in Israel.

Some analysts agree. In a report issued in May, iSuppli said it expects 24 million laptops sold in the fourth quarter of 2009 - about 60 percent of the anticipated market - will have flash storage, versus less than 1 percent in the last quarter of 2006.

Also on show at Computex is a wide range of solid-state disks intended for the industrial sector. Such drives are targeted at military and aviation applications and began replacing other storage methods several years before their entry into the PC market, thanks to the willingness of such customers to pay higher prices.


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