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Intel Robson To Halve Boots

Intel is demonstrating its NAND flash based Robson technology at Computex Taipei 2006, with sampling to begin with notebook OEMs in August or September of this year, while the official launch will come once the Santa Rosa platform hits the market in early 2007, according to Intel Robson PME Mike Patterson.

Robson utilizes NAND flash memory in conjunction with a standard hard disk drive (HDD) to create a Hybrid Hard Disk (HHD), which can improve software performance, reduce boot times and prolong battery life for a notebook PC by using features from Microsoft's upcoming Vista operating system.

According to Patterson, Robson will come in 256MB, 512MB or 1GB options, and the NAND flash will be installed in notebooks either on a PCI Express (PCIe) micro card or embedded on the motherboard, although do to limited real estate most OEMs are expected to opt for an embedded solution.

The solution will also include an ASIC and will require Intel's storage Matrix driver. Eventually, the support coming from the ASIC will migrate to the I/O controller hub (ICH), Patterson indicated.

Industry sources suggested that the ASIC supporting Robson should cost about US$5-6, and with 8Gbit NAND flash currently priced at about US$18, the total cost of Robson is already within the US$20 range.

Intel will offer NAND flash for Robson through its IM Flash Technologies joint venture with Micron Technology, sources indicated.

Robson will take advantage of two key features in Windows Vista ReadyDrive and ReadyBoost. ReadyDrive enables the system to boot up faster by reading some files from NAND flash rather than from the hard drive. Patterson stated that the boot up time can be reduced from one minute to 30 seconds.

ReadyBoost improves system performance by storing key software in NAND flash, which helps applications launch up to three times faster, according to Microsoft. Patterson added that Robson will utilize another Microsoft technology called SuperFetch, which monitors a user's software preferences and preloads the most used applications into the flash memory.

Patterson estimated that about 176MB of the Robson solution will be devoted to ReadyDrive, while the rest can be used for maximizing application performance through ReadyBoost.

Samsung Electronics is also working on a HHD, with its NAND flash solution coming in 128MB and 256MB densities. Samsung indicated it will also sample its HHD with customers beginning in the third quarter, while volume shipments will begin by January 2007, in conjunction with the Windows Vista rollout.

Source: DigiTimes

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