UPDATE: Samsung to ship hybrid hard disk drive in January 2007

UPDATE 3:50 pm ET 18 May 2006 - On Thursday, Samsung shared with us exclusive photos of the inside of its new hybrid hard drives. These photos are available now at our TG Daily slide show.

San Jose (CA) - Samsung said on Wednesday that it will be showing the commercial version of its hybrid hard disk drive at the upcoming Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) next week. The drive will combine Flash memory and will be available early next year.

Samsung has been very quiet about its hybrid hard drive technology since its first announcement in April of last year. In fact, the company was so quiet that we got concerns about the future of what could be one of the most interesting advancements in consumer storage technology in quite some, that we recently felt it was necessary to inquire about the status of the hybrid hard drive.

Today, we learned that Samsung actually has finished the development of the first commercial hard disk drive. According to a statement, Samsung will be providing samples of the drive sometime in the next quarter and will be shipping the drive "in large quantities" in January of 2007, just in time for the Windows Vista launch. While the hybrid hard drive is not expected to become a mainstream product right away, especially Microsoft will be marketing the technology to its customers: For example, Microsoft will be making a hybrid disk drive a "hard requirement" for Windows Vista Premium on notebooks by the second or third quarter of next year, sources told TG Daily.

Samsung did not release many details about the drive. So far, we only know that Samsung will exhibit drives with two different cache sizes, 128 MB and 256 MB. While this does not sound much, 256 MB may be plenty to store all those small files users are accessing during boot processes throughout the day and cause the hard dive to spin. If those files are stored in flash, access may not only be substantially faster, but the power consumption of the hard drive will drop. Samsung promises that the gains will be enough to enable notebooks that run up to 30 minutes longer than today and boot up 50% faster than notebooks with a conventional hard drive.

"We see the hybrid hard drive as the most advanced and cost-effective means of improving the performance of a notebook computer's storage functionality," said Jon Kang, senior vice president in the technical marketing group of Samsung Semiconductor. "The Samsung HHD addresses the two biggest consumer desires: extending battery life and improving boot and resume performance."

Samsung has a unique position in developing and manufacturing flash-based hard drives, as the company is not only the world's largest NAND flash supplier, but continues to build its hard drive business. In April of this year, the firm said that it will be using its 70nm NAND flash for its hybrid hard drives and possible future solid state disks (SSDs). At this time, only Samsung has announced a hybrid drive, with Hitachi being the only other hard drive manufacture to confirm the development of such a drive.