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Windows Vista boot times to pass by in a Flash

USB memory keys to accelerate app, data loads too

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Windows Vista will give the NAND Flash market a big kick when it ships, Samsung has claimed, thanks to technology integrated into the new Microsoft operating system that will allow USB Flash drives to expand a PC's main memory bank, along with support for Flash caches in hard drives to accelerate boot times.

The upshot: increased use of Flash devices with PCs will drive the Flash memory market almost as much as the MP3 player boom has, Don Barnetson Samsung USA Flash marketing chief said yesterday in an interview with EETimes.

Vista's External Memory Device (EMD) technology will boost demand for Flash first. It allows the system to grab USB-connected storage as system memory, using the addition capacity as a half-way house between a true RAM disk and the hard drive. Vista copies over apps and data it anticipates the user will want, allowing them to be subsequently read into RAM far more quickly than they would from the hard drive.

Building Flash directly into hard drives is the next step and provides the same facility - a way to get key data, including the OS itself, off the drive much more quickly, accelerating not only application load times but the start-up sequence too. Crucially, it doesn't have to take into account the fact that the USB Flash drive might have been removed, as EMD does.

If EMD takes off, expect PC makers to add an internal USB slot for the purpose, Barnetson said. It's certainly going to be the cheaper solution until Flash-equipped HDDs become mainstream.

According to market watcher iSuppli, Samsung was the biggest NAND Flash maker in 2005, taking 52.9 per cent of the market thanks to sales totalling $5.74bn, up 47 per cent on 2004's total, $3.9bn. Toshiba, with a market share of 21.9 per cent, came a distant second, followed by Hynix (12.7 per cent), Renesas (6.8 per cent) and Micron (2.2 per cent). In 2005, Hynix pushed past Renesas to take third place, and Micron moved up to fifth place from seventh in 2004. ®

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