The world of mobile storage continues to evolve, with Fujitsu unveiling two new touchscreen notebooks configurable with 16-GB or 32-GB solid state drives (SSDs).
The ultraportable PCs are available in two styles: the LifeBook P1610, a convertible notebook, and the LifeBook B6210, a clamshell style. While both models will be available with flash drives, the company won't be chucking its current design of traditional disk drives, and will continue to sell them as options.
Unlike notebooks that line the shelves of retail stores, the ultraportable market makes up about 1 percent of the consumer retail market, according to Hans Casto, a notebook analyst with Current Analysis. These touchscreen machines are typically used by finance or healthcare workers in environments that require extreme portability.
Rise of Flash
Flash drives are more durable and disaster-proof than traditional hard drives because they have no moving parts. In addition, they are as much as 50 percent more energy efficient. And, for those who want to use their laptop while the airplane passenger in the next seat sleeps, flash drives are as silent as USB memory sticks and other flash-based storage media.
While flash has steadily gained in momentum in the past several years as the storage format of choice for many popular portable media players, the storage format has been too expensive for the mainstream notebook PC market. But that's changed in the past few months, as prices have dropped.
"Even though the technology was there, manufacturers knew that the price points were still too high last year," said Casto. "That's not the case this year." Still, with the 16-GB SSD option, Fujitsu's LifeBooks cost $700 more. And the 32-GB option adds $1,200 to the total. A LifeBook P1610 with a 30-GB traditional hard drive has a starting price of $1,649.
"These are not geared toward the everyday consumer," explained Casto. "Realistically, the person that's buying this will be using it in a harsher type of environment."
On the Horizon
The SSD market is quickly getting crowded, with many leapfrogging announcements made recently. Last month, Adtron announced 160-GB Serial ATA and IDE drives, with read speeds up to 70 MB/sec. Meanwhile, SanDisk is shipping drives up to 32 GB, and Ritek has announced drives up to 64 GB.
According to Avi Greengart, principal analyst for mobile devices at Current Analysis, Fujitsu offering an SSD option is an indication that flash memory is becoming the primary storage for a number of specialized applications.
"Going forward, as capacities rise and prices drop, this is something that is likely going to move into the mainstream," he said.