Samsung And Solid State Drives

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Earlier this month, we pointed out that a hybrid hard drive using flash memory was on its way.

Well, turns out that even before that, Samsung will go whole-hog and put out a flash-memory only hard drive, starting in August.

This is aimed at the notebook market, which makes sense because notebooks will benefit the most from lower power, less heat and less weight, and notebook buyers are more willing to pay for such benefits than desktop folk.

They’ll also be somewhat faster, though not stunningly so. A solid-state drive based on flash memory is much faster than a hard drive when finding information not already cached, but is somewhat slower than a good regular hard drive in getting the information to and from the workers.

People tend to think any form of memory-based storage means instantaneous access, and it doesn’t. There’s bottlenecks in the interface, in the memory itself, and hard drive caches play a bigger role in hard drive performance than many realize.

In other words, this isn’t going to be a miraculous must-have for speed demons. At best, it’s a maybe-have at the luxury end.

What’s The Price . . . And Warranty?

Samsung didn’t mention price, but I think it will be safe to say that a 16Gb drive will at least initially cost more than $500, perhaps a good deal more than that.

Samsung didn’t mention the length of the warranty, either, which ought to be even more interesting. Now you may be less reluctant to change a hard drive than your underwear, but the average notebook user is rather more technophobic than that, and isn’t going to want to hear about having to replace their hard drives like oil filters.

However, given that flash drives using load-balancing technology to keep specific memory in specific memory cells from being pounded all the time, Samsung can probably warranty these drives for a decent period of time. It’s not the same situation as with the hybrid drives, where, as we discussed a few weeks ago, each and every cell would get pounded just about equally.

I think cost will be more of a barrier than reliability for the typical user.

Conclusion

For the desktop, a few will experiment will them, and they’ll be included in some cost-be-damned systems, but that’s about it.

Acceptance in the notebook world (again, at the higher end) isn’t necessarily a given, either, for two reasons, one good, one bad.

The good reason why this may not take off is that 8 or even 16Gb of storage could be a rather too tight fit for many people. Put in Windows and Office and a few other programs, and you can fill up 8Gb pretty quickly. 16Gb is probably enough for a lean, mean, working machine, but this brings up the bad reason why this may not catch on.

The bad reason why this may not take off is that perception is more important than reality. What any notebook with one of these drives is going to do is offer a good deal less storage space for a good deal more money, and many could have a real mental block about that.

Translate that into buyer English, and you get, “Why should I buy a 16Gb machine, when I can get 40 or 80Gb for a lot less money?”

A variant on that thought is “What if I run out of space?” The average notebook user probably doesn’t need a 40Gb hard drive, but in an area where most users are uncomfortable, creating something else to worry about is not a selling point. The average user may not need more than 16Gb, but that doesn’t matter if he or she thinks he or she needs it.

True road warriors will scoff at these reasons, and happily accept the tradeoffs. Good for them, but not all or even most notebook buyers are road warriors these days. There’s a lot of casual users and/or first-time notebook buyers these days who basically think they want to have a desktop that moves, and don’t yet appreciate the nuances of a few less ounces to lug around or a cooler lap.

Add additional cost to this ignorance, and it’s easy to see how many who actually would benefit from this will say, “No thanks.”

This leaves the market for this product to those more experienced notebook users who a) properly appreciate the advantages of this product and b) don’t mind paying more for it.

This means the highish end: you’ll see this more in IBM ThinkPads than Dell Inspirons.

Ed

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