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Thursday, January 04, 2007

CES: Flash drives for consumer notebooks

The rush of announcements for the Consumer Electronics Show next week is starting, with SanDisk saying it will be showing flash drives for consumer notebook PC makers. This is nothing new (the LG Phenom was a flash-based, Windows CE, instant-on ultra portable laptop, and these drives are used in aircraft and military systems for weight and reliability), but getting them down to the right price point is the challenge.
SanDisk is talking about a 32Gbyte drive, while low end notebooks have a 40GB drive, most now have 80GB or 120GB,and who will pay more for a low end notebook. Analysts estimate it will add $600 to the cost of a notebook, which is too high for most of the market, even with a faster boot time (35s for Windows Vista rather than 55s for a traditional drive). The real benefit comes with the 'always on' state, where the state is stored in flash as well and the notebook doesn't have to be booted. That would be worth the extra cash.
While the primary race is between the falling cost of magnetic media (and the hybrids with a disk and a large flash buffer) and the rising density of flash, that added feature of 'instant on' is the point and don't be surprised if that is what is demonstrated next week.

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