The future of the notebook is solid

ipadThe Apple iPad. (Image source: Walter Galan)The development of the Solid State Hard Drive (SSD) has meant that tablets are thinner, faster and more mobile than any computing device before them

But this mobility comes at a cost – tablets tend towards limited functionality and many users still crave the full features of a notebook along with the portability and always-on functionality of a tablet. This gives a clear glimpse into the future of notebook development; a merger between the technology of the tablet and the features of a PC, delivering thinner, faster, more rugged notebooks incorporating the benefits of SSD.

The adoption of SSD was slow to start with but has been driven on by a number of factors and is set to accelerate further in 2012. In the past SSDs have been seen as overly expensive for the notebook market, but as with any technology, as it matures and demand grows, prices begin to fall and the technology becomes more widely affordable.

SSDs will eventually become the norm but this transition has been hastened by natural global events, specifically the flooding in Thailand. Two of the largest original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of hard disk drives (HDD) are based in Thailand and the intense rain caused their facilities to flood. Water damage caused by water running from the highlands to the lowlands, where the factories are, hampered the fast recovery of production in cleanrooms necessary to build traditional platter-based hard drives.

The result of this is a worldwide shortage of hard drives that is likely to be felt long into 2012. SSDs are not widely utilised in all mobile platforms and many of the suppliers have not been affected by the flooding as their factories are located elsewhere. As a result, notebooks ordered with a normal HDD will be subject to possible shipping delays and swapping out on specs due to availability, whereas notebooks with SSDs will ship immediately. This will incentivise individuals to make the move to solid state and in turn experience the technology’s increased performance.

The increased demand for SSD is coupled with the increasing trend towards greater mobility, thinner, lighter devices with faster boot times and more power. Computer design, specifically with regard to notebooks, appears to be moving towards thin, lightweight and highly portable devices that boot up in seconds, thanks to SSDs.  Intel's Ivy Bridge, with abundant processing power, is also expected early this year. There have also been rumours of major advances in operating system software from Microsoft with Windows 8, which should be released by late 2012.

An on-going trend is that the notebook of the future seems set to deliver better specs for less money, with previously premium technology such as the SSD now becoming available to the mass market. RAM modules are increasing in size and in the next year 4GB and 8GB memory modules are likely to become standard.

Notebooks are also set to become increasingly cost effective and production efficient, driving down the cost for the consumer and making more computing power available at a lower cost than ever before.

2011 was the year of the tablet and this has driven the increased popularity of SSD as well as the development of miniaturised processors that deliver the same performance levels as their full-sized counterparts. However, tablets do not offer full functionality for what is often a substantial price. As a result, 2012 will see the emergence of small, thin-form factor notebooks that deliver tablet-style convenience with full notebook features.

Notebooks are set to become thinner, lighter and more power efficient than ever, and solid state drives that improve boot up, running and read/write speeds and enhance the portability and ruggedness of any mobile device will become even more commonplace.

Article by Deon Botha, HP Personal Systems Group and Magnetic Media Business Unit manager at Drive Control Corporation.

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