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Windows 8 to mainstream solid-state drives, says analyst

Cheaper flash and Windows 8 means more SSDs this year, says an IHS iSuppli analyst.

New Windows 8 touchscreen ultrabooks like Acer's 11.6-inch Aspire S7 come standard with solid-state drives.
New Windows 8 touchscreen ultrabooks like Acer's 11.6-inch Aspire S7 come standard with solid-state drives.

This could be the year of the solid-state drive.

Newfangled uber-thin Windows 8 devices and falling flash memory prices could double the size of the solid-state drive market, according to a research note today from IHS iSuppli.

"The newest wave of ultrabooks loaded with Windows 8 has started to generate enthusiasm," wrote Ryan Chien, analyst for memory and storage at IHS, adding that a growing appetite for laptops, hybrids, and tablets could conspire with falling flash memory prices to drive demand.

Worldwide SSD shipments are expected to rise to 83 million units this year, up from 39 million in 2012, according to Chien. By 2016, shipments are expected to hit 239 million units, amounting to about 40 percent of the size of the hard disk drive (HDD) market.

"[The] average selling prices for NAND flash memory have come down, in the process establishing new price expectations [and] an increasing number of PC manufacturers...are now more willing to install the once-costly drives into computers," he said in the research note.

Micron Technology, for instance, recently announced a terabyte-class SSD under its Crucial brand for less than $600. While not a bargain compared with a 1TB magnetic hard drive, it's a whole lot cheaper than a 1TB SSD used to be. An SSD packing that kind of capacity only a year ago easily cost more than the price of a high-end laptop.

SSDs are typically much faster than standard spinning HDDs and have become a staple of thin designs like the MacBook Air, Acer Aspire S7, Dell XPS 13 ultrabook, and Microsoft's Surface tablets. Gamers also often opt for SSDs in extreme-performance systems.

And as this is an iSuppli forecast, it's predicated on the popularity of Windows 8 computers. "The fate of the SSD business is closely tied to the market for Ultrabooks and other ultrathin PCs [that use these drives]," Chien wrote.