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Monday, March 10, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Intel tech could take MacBook Air SSDs to 160GB next quarter

Intel next quarter will introduce several new high-speed solid state drives (SSDs), including a 160GB model that will more than double the amount of storage capacity that Apple could offer customers of its SSD-based MacBook Air.

The new models, expected in 2.5-inch and MacBook Air-compatible 1.8-inch formats, will compete with drives from existing flash memory drive makers including Samsung, which has promised a 128GB version of its 1.8-inch SSD in the third quarter of the year.

What's more, Intel's NAND product chief Troy Winslow tells News.com, is that the Intel drives will boast transfer rates that are far superior to existing offerings, including the 100MB per second offerings from Samsung.

"We will be supplementing our product line with a SATA offering," Winslow said, referring to the high speed Serial ATA hard drive interface that delivers speeds of up to 3GB per second.

"When Intel launches its...products, you'll see that not all SSDs are created equal," he added. "The way the SSDs are architected, the way the controller and firmware operates makes a huge difference."

Intel also expects the price of flash-based drives to fall considerably over the next few years, reducing the technology from a luxurious commodity to a mainstream staple in notebook systems two years from now. While it costs about $1000 to upgrade a notebook to an SSD today, that cost could be shaved to less than $200 by 2010.

"Price declines are historically 40 percent per year," said Winslow. "And in 2009, a 50 percent reduction, then again in 2010."

In speaking to News.com, the Intel exec also highlighted SSDs as playing an increasing role in the server market due to their ability accelerate performance more than sixfold when compared to even the highest performing traditional hard drives.

He said that Intel recently performed a video-on-demand demonstration that required 62 15,000 RPM hard disk drives to stream 4,000 videos simultaneously. The company was able to replicate the same test using just 10 SATA (SSD) technology drives, he said.