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Issue of February 2007

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The coming age of notebooks

Notebook PC sales are skyrocketing but the current crop leave much to be desired.
There’s a lot happening, however, to fix that

Most notebooks sold in India cost in the region of Rs 50,000 to 70,000. As per IDC India, the highest growth has been witnessed in shipments of notebook PCs with ASV (Average Sale Value) between Rs. 52,500 – Rs. 65,500.

These notebooks typically weigh 2.5 to 3 kilos minus the batteries and power adapter. That’s much too heavy. On top of this battery life is usually just about four hours or so. Again that doesn’t quite cut it. You can carry an additional battery but then you’ll be toting another half kilo or so. While you can get a lightweight (relatively speaking) notebook that comes in at 1.5 kilos without the battery it’ll set you back by a lakh plus.

There are a bunch of technologies that are poised to transform mobile computing. In no particular order they are flash-based Solid State Discs (SSD) and hybrid discs that combine hard disks with 256 kB going on 1 GB flash caches. I won’t even talk about fuel cells that have long been touted as the answer to all battery problems but are nowhere near production yet.

SSD is already out in the market, albeit on few devices...yet. Samsung which makes the discs has the Q1-SSD that sports a 32 GB SSD. 32 gigs may not seem like much but when you consider that the drive will sip power vis-a-vis a conventional hard drive and be faster on boot-up—it’s a sweet deal. Then there are hybrid drives. Seagate’s already launched its mobile hybrid drive—the Momentus 5400 PSD. Hybrid drives sport a large flash memory cache. All hard drives have a DRAM cache but these have traditionally been tiny. The flash cache on Seagate’s first hybrid drive is already at 256 MB and the roadmap goes up to a gig this year. These drives work by keeping Windows log files and other data that is written when a system is idle onto the flash cache thereby allowing the hard drive to spin down and save power. Hybrid drives are also expected to be more reliable by as much as five times. It also generates less heat making it ideal for blade servers and other devices that require high density.

All this technology will take a bit of time to mature. As of now a 7200 rpm hard drive and more memory would probably give you a bigger bang for your buck as Lenovo’s Matt Kohut recommends. That said, the notebook you buy in 2008 will likely sport one of these two technologies and give you double the battery life in a cooler configuration that boots up in a, dare I say it, flash.

Prashant L Rao
Executive Editor

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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