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Electronics Production | May 02, 2007

More Than Half of New Notebooks to Use Flash Drives in 2009

More than half of the new notebook PCs sold worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2009 will use some form of flash memory for data storage, up from a negligible total now, according to data from iSuppli Corp.'s new Technology Penetration Database.
In the fourth quarter of 2009, 24 million notebook PCs will be sold with some form of flash data storage, compared to a mere 143,600 in the first quarter of 2007, iSuppli predicts. This means that nearly 60 percent of the 40.1 million notebook shipments will have flash data storage in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2007.

The attached figure presents iSuppli's forecast of the penetration of flash-enabled data storage in notebook PCs.

More than a flash in the pan
“Enabling the use of flash data storage in PCs is the dramatic decline in prices for NAND-type memory parts employed in such solutions," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, compute platforms for iSuppli. “In 2003, 1Gbyte of NAND flash memory was nearly 100 times as expensive as an equivalent quantity of HDD storage, according to iSuppli. By 2009, that price gap will dwindle to a factor of slightly less than 14."

However, with flash still far more expensive than HDDs, other factors besides cost will compel PC OEMs and consumers to adopt it.

“Flash-based data storage provides significant performance improvements compared to traditional rotating magnetic storage now used in notebook PCs," Wilkins said. “Increased performance is achieved due to the fast read times of flash memory compared to HDDs, which reduce loading times for operating systems and applications. Flash also offers improved reliability, better shock resistance and lower power consumption compared to HDDs."

Differing paths for flash
Three different approaches now are being offered for flash data storage in PCs: Intel Corp.'s Robson, Hybrid Hard Disk Drives (HHDs), and Solid State Drives (SSDs). Each of these technologies delivers performance improvements compared to conventional HDDs.

Ultraportable and mainstream notebook PCs will show similar penetration of flash data storage throughout the next two years. More than half, or 54 percent, of the ultraportable PCs shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009 will use HHDs, while 28 percent will employ SSDs. This contrasts with the first quarter of 2007, when only 1 percent of ultraportable PCs used HHDs and there was no adoption of SSDs.

However, the ultraportable segment represents a small part of the overall notebook market, accounting for only about 10 percent of unit shipments in the first quarter of 2007. The real volumes for flash data storage will be driven by mainstream notebook PCs, which accounted for 57 percent of total mobile PCs in the first quarter of 2007.

By the fourth quarter of 2009, 58 percent of mainstream notebooks will use HHDs, up from 1 percent in the first quarter of 2007. iSuppli estimates 25 percent will use SSDs, up from zero now.

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