TH: Intel occasionally tells me that it consistently ranks at the top of the SSD field because it has the best controller and firmware. Since some of your drives are rebranded Intel models, can you explain what makes Intel’s algorithms better?
LK: The controller is the engine, whatever flash device you have. If anyone would understand I/O, it would seem to be Intel. I think it leveraged that expertise and in-depth understanding of its own NAND. I mean, not all NAND is the same. We do a lot of multi-sourcing with our USB products, and as we change from one NAND manufacturer to another, we see differences in performance. I think the Intel drive has an optimized controller designed to work specifically with its NAND.
TH: Not to be rude, but if you guys are basically putting your own sticker on Intel’s drive, what value can Kingston to bring to the product?
LK: Well, that's more of a business question. Think of how Intel traditionally gets into Company X. They come in a Dell or HP box, right? Maybe in a ThinkPad. They wanted our help to proliferate their drives, and we have a channel at the consumer, system builder, and corporate end-user levels. We have people that end up talking to the same Company X. I accompany a lot of those guys on these conversations whenever we have a new technology. But for us, Intel’s drives helped us launch with a very strong product into the SSD market. The win for Intel was that we were covering area they couldn't get to normally.
TH: And I like your mobile and desktop SSD upgrade kits. Very clean and easy. Whoever thought of putting that combo together, good job.
LK: [laughs] Actually, that was me. Not a lot of our competitors have something like that, and if they do, it's often not as well put together as ours. I remember our first conversations with an SSD partner—not Intel—and we actually asked if they had any plans to do this. They looked at me like I had two heads. Like, why would I do that? I asked, “What about customers that have bought an HP whatever and have no install CDs? It's on the drive’s recovery partition.” They just shrugged their shoulders and said that was the customer’s problem. Needless to say, they’re not a partner of ours, but things like that just convinced us that if we were going to do this, we'd have to do it on our own. The upgrade idea just makes sense for us. Corporate IT has their own standards and methods of cloning. We needed to make it easy for consumers.