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Can Seagate steer hybrid-drive market?
Written by Daniel   
Monday, 08 October 2007 10:48

Can Seagate steer hybrid-drive market?
By Erica Ogg
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: October 8, 2007, 5:00 AM PDT
Last modified: October 8, 2007, 6:54 AM PDT

Seagate Technology, the industry's largest producer of hard drives, has finally started shipping its first batch of hybrid hard drives for notebook PCs.
The Scotts Valley, Calif., company announced Monday that the Momentus 5400 PSD hybrid hard drive will be shipping in volume in notebook PCs.

The 2.5-inch hybrid drive is a 160GB drive with 256MB of flash memory. Adding flash chips to the mix has produced notebooks that can get 50 percent better battery life, according to Seagate.
Though Seagate is not the first to market with mechanical hard drives combined with flash memory chips--that was Samsung a few months back--the move will likely drag the other major hard-drive makers, such as Hitachi and Fujitsu, into the mix.

There are several potential inhibitors to widespread adoption of hybrid drives by the PC industry: the current expense of flash memory; a possible need for better optimization with PC operating systems, particularly Microsoft's Windows Vista; and hybrid drives' availability from a variety of sources.

Still, the timing for introducing the Seagate drives could be good. Several major notebook manufacturers have announced their intentions to use hybrid drives. The idea behind them is that storing some data on flash chips is faster and uses less power because it means not accessing the main storage of the mechanical drive. Notebooks, therefore, are a natural application for them.

"It absolutely makes sense to take advantage of nonvolatile semiconductor memory and the best aspects of the hard-disk drive technology," said John Monroe, a vice president of research at Gartner. Using the two technologies together has benefits for users, including faster boot times and better battery life.

Seagate says it's positioning the Momentus 5400 PSD as a mainstream option that balances the use of flash chips with the affordability of traditional hard-disk drives. Sony's Vaio SZ650 is currently shipping with the new hybrid drive from Seagate, and four other PC manufacturers have also signed on. It all depends on the order volume, but Seagate says its hybrid drives will sell for an approximately 20 percent to 30 percent premium over its standard hard-disk drives. A 160GB hard drive from Seagate, for example, costs approximately $130.

But it's likely going to take several years for these to catch on in the mainstream notebook market. In three or four years, hybrids still won't account for more than one-third of the drives used in notebooks, according to Gartner's calculations.... More    Comment in the Forums

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