Robson or hybrid hard drive? The battle is coming

Faced with two technologies, companies are already picking sides over intregrating flash memory into PCs.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
Next year, we're going to see a battle of the titans over how flash memory gets incorporated into PCs and notebooks.

Intel is backing a technology called Robson. In Robson, a large amount of data and applications will be stored in flash memory so that the processor won't have to retrieve it from the hard drive, which takes far longer. With Robson, you'll be able to put your PC into hibernate, and come out and start work right where you left off almost instantly, said Dadi Perlmutter, who heads up Intel's Mobility Group.

Robson also cuts power consumption because the drive doesn't have to spin as much as it ordinarily would. The flash in Robson will come in an add-on card or be integrated onto the motherboard.

Samsung, Microsoft and Seagate, meanwhile, all have their eye on the hybrid hard drive, where the flash is inside the hard drive. It stores necessary applications as well as keystrokes, URLs and other material that you put into your computer. When the flash fills up, it wakes up the drive, which takes the data, stores it and goes back to sleep. Technically, drives already come with flash, but they don't perform these functions.

Hybrids could significantly cut power consumption in notebooks because the drive, one of the primary consumers of power, stays asleep the majority of the time.

The two technologies aren't contradictory--a PC manufacturer could implement both. But, that would raise prices and be overkill to a certain degree. Thus, companies are lining up on one side or the other.

Perlmutter claimed that the hybrid drive could get delayed. Seagate refuted that, saying it will come out with hybrids in the first half of next year. Samsung also has said it will come out with hybrids next year. Robson, meanwhile, will come out in the first half of next year, too, and be an option in notebooks based on Intel's Centrino "Santa Rosa" platform.