Seagate, Others Push Hybrid Technology for Laptops

Patience may be a virtue, but when it comes to getting faster boot-up times for computers, no one will complain. That is why a new industry alliance is promoting a hybrid technology to speed the start-up process for laptops.

Five leading hardware makers have come together to push for a new storage component that incorporates NAND flash memory onto a computer's hard drive.

In addition to boosting a computer's ability to access stored data, the so-called hybrid hard drive also would prolong a laptop's battery life, according to the newly formed Hybrid Storage Alliance. The founding members of the alliance are Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co., Seagate Technology LLC, and Toshiba Corp.

NAND flash is a type of memory commonly used in MP3 players and digital cameras. Unlike hard drives, which store data on spinning disks, flash memory stores the information on a microchip. This nonvolatile form of memory retains data even when the appliance is turned off, allowing more immediate access to such information than with a hard drive.

Joni Clark, the chairwoman of the alliance, expects the new hybrid drives to appear on higher-end notebook models by the end of the first quarter. Eventually, the technology is expected to become a standard component across all models, she said.

The hybrid technology is designed to work hand-in-hand with advances in Microsoft Corp.'s new operating system, Windows Vista, which will become available to consumers later this month.

The technology helps to shorten a Vista-based machine's startup time by booting the system straight from the flash memory chip instead of waiting for the system to turn on and start spinning the platters on the hard drive. If a laptop with a hybrid drive is put in hibernation mode, open applications would resume faster as well.

A laptop with a hybrid hard drive could see up to a 20 percent improvement in the time it takes to boot up and open an application, the alliance said.

Drawing on the flash memory also consumes less power than a hard drive, thus extending a machine's battery life, the alliance said.

In the high-tech industry, the pairing of the storage technologies is akin to a marriage between two enemies. As the maximum capacity of flash increased in recent years, it has competed with hard drives to be the keeper of digital files in portable gadgets such as media players, cell phones or cameras.


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