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IDF: Intel's surprise move to hard disks

The chip maker shocks with confirmation of a new line of solid-state hard disks.

Intel is set to produce its own solid-state hard disks (SSDs) base on its NAND flash-memory technolgy, in an annoucment at their tech forum which surprised many.

The devices are designed to replace traditional mechanical hard disk drives. Rumours on the subject have been circulating for a while but the sudden confirmation of their existence is a big surprise.

The move has nonplussed even some of Intel UK's own people, who claimed that they'd seen and heard nothing about it until the announcement during Intel's Dadi Perlmutter's mobile-computing keynote.

It represents a foray into a completely new market for the company and will worry current mobile hard-disk manufacturers.

Not only is Intel's entry into SSDs a surprising and potentially industry-shaking move, the little information that's been announced gives even more cause for competitors to be concerned.

The single slide devoted to the topic during Perlmutter's keynote claimed capacities ranging from 32GB up to an amazing 160GB - far larger than 32GB and 64GB SSDs announced by market rivals such as Samsung.

The disks will be in SATA form only, and come in 1.8in and 2.5in versions to be a direct drop-in replacement for standard mechanical SATA disks.

SSDs' strengths are lower power consumption, greater shock resistance than the relatively delicate mechanism of a normal hard disk and potentially better performance. Intel is claiming shock resistance of 1,500G. By contrast, a typical mechanical disk can only survive a 300-400G shock while it's operating.

Intel is also implying it will improve on the relatively disappointing performance of solid-state disks up until now, with a demonstration of an SSD-equipped laptop against a standard one showing applications apparently loading up near-instantly.

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