CES 2007: Hybrid hard drives promoted through industry alliance

Pre CES 2007 coverage - Las Vegas (NV) - Four of the world's five largest hard drive manufacturers have come together to form the hybrid storage alliance - an effort to create more visibility for mass storage devices that combine traditional hard drives with flash memory technology.

The new Hybrid Storage Alliance was founded by Seagate, Hitachi GST, Toshiba and Samsung and only misses Western Digital as the remaining top-2 hard drive vendor, which, however, as the only top-5 company does not develop platter technologies by itself, but relies on third-party suppliers such as Showa Denko instead.

The industry alliance intends to work together to establish a market for flash-supported hard drives, which initially will be aiming for integration in notebooks and promise more performance while consuming less power. It is expected that a range of hybrid hard drives will be on the CES 2007 exhibit floor, with flash capacities ranging from 128 MB to as much as 1 GB.

Joni Clark, product marketing manager at Seagate and chairman of the newly founded organization, was quoted in a prepared statement saying that "the hard drive industry is continuously looking for ways to bring greater value to the systems in which our technology resides and to those who use them. Adding non- volatile memory to the hard drive brings about a host of mobility benefits that increases the value users want in notebook PCs - longer battery life, faster response, greater system durability."

Of course, the companies to stand out in this alliance are Samsung and Toshiba, who have a special interest in the success of this hard drive technology. Combined, the two companies control more than 70% of the world's supply of NAND flash memory, according to market research firm iSuppli. A rapid growth of the notebook segment as well as a booming hard drive market could mean substantial new revenue opportunities for these firms. Analysts at IDC recently predicted that hybrid hard disk drives will account for 35% of all hard disk drives shipped with portable PCs by 2010.

The upcoming Windows Vista operating system is Microsoft's first OS that is tuned to take advantage of flash memory as an acceleration tool. Hybrid hard drives will be supported by the firm's "ReadyDrive" technology, which promises faster boot and resume times and longer battery run times.

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