Flash cache to earn big bucks

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Flash cache to earn big bucks

Fast-booting PCs to take 40 per cent of the market by 2008.

New PCs that start up almost instantly could take 40 percent of the market by 2008, boosting sales of the Flash memory chips that drive them.

The fast-booting PCs could account for as much as seven percent of global demand for Nand Flash chips within two years, and earn an extra US$1 billion for manufacturers, according to researchers at South Korea's Hyundai Securities.

Microsoft and Intel have unveiled plans to use Flash memory to improve disk access speed and reduce boot-up time. 

The Flash memory holds some commonly-used parts of the operating system which are normally accessed from the hard drive when the PC starts.

Microsoft's Flash-assisted start-up technology is called Windows ReadyBoost, and Intel's is currently codenamed Robson.

Both systems take advantage of the fact that some types of operating system data, in particular numerous small files, can be accessed from Flash memory far more quickly than from hard drives because Flash contains no moving parts.

An early prototype of Intel's Robson technology was able to boot Windows in less than 10 seconds at a demonstration last year.

In addition to the start-up advantages, added Flash memory can also help PCs load large programs more rapidly, reduce wear on hard drives and control power consumption and heat.

The latter two factors make it a particularly attractive option for notebooks and other mobile PCs.

Robson and ReadyBoost, which will be part of Windows Vista, are both expected to be on the market early next year.

The technology will be one of a number of factors driving strong growth in sales of Flash memory next year, analysts believe.

"New Flash demand from personal media players, video MP3 players, and cache for PCs will grow in earnest in the second half of 2007," said Hyundai Securities analyst Jay Kim.

If manufacturers can keep the added cost of the Flash cache memory below four per cent of the total PC price, Kim believes the market could begin to take off in the second half of next year.

During this period some 25 million Flash-equipped PCs will be sold in the second half, Hyundai Securities forecasts.

Almost 40 per cent of new PCs sold will be using the technology by 2008, Kim predicts, absorbing between five and seven percent of global Flash memory chip production.

This would generate up to US$1.12 billion in extra revenue for Flash memory makers, based on sales forecasts from IDC and Hyundai Securities.
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