SAN JOSE, Calif. Software snafus will blunt the rollout of hybrid hard disk drives in 2008, according to a new report released Wednesday. Only about 13 million of the hard disks that incorporate NAND flash for caching key data will ship in 2008, predicts the report from Objective Analysis.
"Microsoft has a good concept with its ReadyDrive software, but they can't devote attention to it because they have diverted energy to fixing Vista bugs," said Jim Handy, principal of Objective Analysis (Los Gatos, Calif.).
Early benchmarks of the drives have given them mixed results so far, Handy said, indicating performance tuning is needed. "Some of the benchmarks suggest the hybrid drives run some software faster and other software slower," he said.
The new drives, aimed primarily at notebook computers "will become significant but not next year, and their success is contingent on Microsoft putting adequate attention on the software issues," Handy said.
The firm estimates fewer than one million hybrid drives will ship this year and only about 13 million in 2008. However, shipments could rise to 90 million in 2009 and 220 million in 2010, the group projects.
Only Samsung and Seagate current have shipping hybrid drives. Both companies have models with 256 Mbytes NAND cache and drive capacity of 80, 120 or 160 Gbytes. Other drive makers are waiting for market demand to pick up before launching the products, he said.
Using software in Vista, the hybrid drives are geared to slash the time for booting a system or loading applications. The code can also cache frequently accessed data.
The hybrid drives may blunt the rise of solid-state drives that use flash memory and aim to give a bigger boost in performance and reliability but at a steeper cost. Handy estimated a hybrid drive carries a premium of about $10 while a solid-state drive carries a premium of as much as $300.
"Hybrids offer 80 percent of more of the performance of solid-state drives at a much lower cost," he said.