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Ultrabook price vice prised open by flash-disk half-breeds

Analyst: Pressure on performance and cost will spark hybrid demand

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Hybrid disk drives are on their way to becoming a fixture in computing: Seagate has had design wins at Dell and other OEMs.

So says financial analyst Aaron Rakers of Stifel Nicolaus. Ultrabook pricing is the driver here. To get Intel's Macbook Air knock-off down into the $650 to $750 area from its current $999 price point will need cheaper components. Flash is needed for performance, but a 128GB SSD costs $1.50 per gig, according to Rakers, whereas 320GB and 500GB single platter 2.5-inch hard drives cost $0.20 to $0.25/GB.

Add a smallish flash cache to these cheap spinning disks, as used in Seagate's 2-platter Momentus XT, and you have near-flash read speed and HDD capacity at much less than an all-flash drive.

Rakers thinks single-platter drives like Seagate's Momentus Thin and WD's Scorpio Blue are going to receive added flash caches.

He says Seagate has up to eight OEM design wins for its hybrid drives and expects WD and Seagate to offer 7mm, 2.5-inch hybrid HDDs in late-2012/early-2013. The hybrid drive Ultrabooks are coming, and we'll probably see hybrid drive notebooks accompanying them. ®

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