Seagate to offer solid-state drives

Seagate plans to start shipping solid-state disks, according to a Wall Street Journal report/

Seagate Technology plans to add solid-state drives based on flash memory chips to its lineup of storage products sometime in 2008, the company said Thursday.

Seagate will introduce the drives across a range of products including desktop and notebook PCs, offering various storage capacities, said Woody Monroy, a Seagate spokesman. Monroy confirmed comments made by the company in published reports earlier in the day.

"We have solid-state drives on every road map that we have," Bill Watkins, the company's CEO, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

SSDs, as solid-state drives are also known, use flash memory instead of magnetic disks to store information. Flash is a type of non-volatile memory, which means the chips retain stored information when power is off. Other memory types, such as DRAM, lose data when the power goes off.

SSDs offer a couple advantages over disk-based drives: they're lighter, consume less power, and more rugged, making them ideal for laptops and mobile devices. They are also more expensive, but the price gap is narrowing as flash memory becomes increasingly cheaper.

Seagate already makes hybrid drives, which combine flash memory with magnetic disks. Its Momentus 5400 PSD hybrid drive stores the most commonly accessed data on flash memory instead of on disks, which improves read time and speeds up the process of booting a computer, the company said.

The drives are intended to be used in laptops and are available in capacities up to 160G bytes, according to Seagate's Web site.

Seagate will use the new flash drives to augment its product lineup for certain applications, but predicts far greater demand for its hybrid, or "flash-embedded," drives. "We have a pretty compelling product in hybrid drives; that's where we see a large part of the storage market going in the future, much bigger than SSD," Monroy said.

In January, Seagate joined an industry alliance of storage vendors promoting hybrid drive technology, also including Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Fujitsu, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba. That capability also complements a feature of Microsoft's Windows Vista OS, designed to remove the delay often encountered while a computer searches for and retrieves files from its hard drive. Intel also uses a similar approach to speed the performance of its Centrino Duo notebook platform.

As the high cost of flash and hybrid drives drops closer to traditional hard drives, consumers will soon fuel increased demand for the superior performance of solid state, analysts said. In June, iSuppli forecasted that by the end of 2009, 12 percent of notebooks would include SSDs, and 35 percent of notebooks would use hybrid hard drives.

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Sumner Lemon

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