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Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics showcased at the ongoing WinHEC conference a prototype of the so-called Hybrid Hard Drive (HHD) which combines NAND flash cache and rotating media. The companies said the new HHD will be supported by Windows forthcoming operating system code-named Longhorn and will improve reliability, power saving and performance of next-generation hard disk drives for mobile computers.

“Hybrid drive architecture is extremely important to the future design of mobile computers. It is an advancement that will improve the performance and reliability of any computer using the Windows ‘Longhorn’ operating system. We are delighted with the performance in our initial testing of the Samsung hybrid hard drive prototype,” said Tom Phillips, General Manager of Windows Hardware Experience Group for Microsoft.

The hybrid hard drive incorporated Samsung’s 1Gb (128MB) OneNAND device that connects to the HHD's SOC using NOR interface as a cache and storage for data operating system writes in the process of its work. This allows the drive to halt the spindle motor saving up to 95% of power consumption  and preserving the drive even in case of a physical shock. The hybrid drive design also can provide significantly faster boot times when a computer running “Longhorn” computer starts up, according to the developers.

Peculiarities of the HHD demonstrated by Samsung and Microsoft are unclear, but the two companies said they would introduce a set of interface commands to improve the efficiency of HHDs.

The two firms said the HHD has been in development since late 2003, when Microsoft started working closely with Samsung to develop the next generation of ultra-low-power disk drives for notebook computers.

The HHD prototype will be converted into products manufactured and marketed by Samsung's HDD division as well as other HDD OEMs. Samsung’s OneNAND will integrate with the HHD SOC via its NOR interface as a standalone memory device or in a multi-chip package. Samsung expects HHD-enabled notebooks to begin shipping in large quantities in late 2006.

“Samsung, in cooperation with Microsoft, will work aggressively with drive manufacturers to transition the hybrid disk drive prototype into world-class commercial products. When they take a close look, they will find that OneNAND is the memory device most ideally suited for hybrid hard drives,” said Ivan Greenberg, director of strategic marketing for Samsung Semiconductor.

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