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Wednesday, March 08, 2006, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Intel plans to put flash memory into notebooks next year

Intel plans to put NAND flash memory chips into notebook PCs beginning next year, the company revealed at the Intel Developer Forum this week.

According to a report published on TheStreet.com, the Santa Clara, Calif., chipmaker said Tuesday that the NAND flash feature in its forthcoming notebook platform, dubbed Santa Rosa, would offer the main benefit of almost instantaneous PC boot times.

NAND flash is a type of computer memory that retains data even without a power supply — a technology that has proven especially popular for the new generation of consumer electronics devices, such as digital media players and cameras.

"We need to have devices that boot up very rapidly," Sean Maloney, the head of Intel's mobility group, told developers. "The same way you come off a plane and get a cell phone signal immediately."

In his presentation, Maloney demonstrated the advantages of flash technology in PCs, by booting up two PCs on stage, one with 256MB of flash memory, and the other without, TheStreet reports. The PC with flash reportedly booted in about half the time and also consumed slightly less power than the non-flash PC.

According to Maloney, the technology can scale way beyond a 256MB flash buffer, potentially running a PC's entire operating system from flash instead of from the hard drive. "It just comes down to what's the cost curve on NAND," he said.

Still, Maloney noted that it is still unclear how much flash would be incorporated into the forthcoming Santa Rosa platform, an updated version of the company's popular Centrino brand scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2007.

Word of Intel's intentions to extend NAND flash technology to PCs comes roughly three months after Apple gave the chip maker and its flash memory manufacturing partner Micron a cool $500 million in prepayments to secure a supply of the memory chips through 2010, presumably for iPods.