WinHEC: Samsung to Show "Flash" Laptop Hard Drives

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SEATTLE--Samsung expects to show a prototype hard drive at WinHEC this week that includes flash memory. The design holds the promise of lower power usage and less hard drive trouble for laptop users.

The Hybrid Hard Drive, developed by Samsung and Microsoft, is meant for mobile PCs running Longhorn, the next version of the Windows operating system. By writing data to the flash memory, there is no need to spin up the hard drive, saving power and sparing the disk, says Ivan Greenberg, Samsung's director of strategic marketing.

This leads to a reduction in power consumption of 10 percent and can also help prevent problems that occur when the drive is moved while in use, Greenberg says.

"The failing item in a returned notebook is typically the hard drive. If we keep that drive spun down, we believe that will have a huge impact," Greenberg says.

WinHEC is Microsoft's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle.

All Laptop Data in Main Memory?

When the flash memory is full, the hard drive is spun up, and the data is written to disk. The prototype contains 128MB of flash memory, Greenberg says. Longhorn will also minimize reading from the hard drive by storing more data, including application data, in main memory, he says.

With its 64-bit technology, Longhorn can support up to 128GB of main memory. A user could keep all of a PC's data in the main memory, Microsoft Windows chief Jim Allchin said in a recent interview. "Let's suppose you had 10GB of primary memory--probably everything that you do could fit in memory," Allchin said.

Commercial versions of the drive are planned for release in late 2006, the same time as Longhorn, with the first samples due in mid-2006, Greenberg says.

The hybrid drives may cost more than regular hard drives, but Samsung believes that increase will be mitigated by the lower maintenance costs and power savings.

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