SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel ( INTC) will put NAND flash chips into notebook PCs beginning next year.The Santa Clara, Calif., chipmaker said Tuesday that the NAND flash feature in its forthcoming notebook platform, dubbed Santa Rosa, would offer the main benefit of decreasing the time it takes to turn on a PC. "We need to have devices that boot up very rapidly," Sean Maloney, the head of Intel's mobility group, said at the Intel Developer Forum taking place here this week. "The same way you come off a plane and get a cell phone signal immediately." The news comes roughly three months after Intel announced that it was forming a joint venture with Micron ( MU) to produce NAND flash chips. The joint venture's first announced customer was Apple ( AAPL), which will purchase $500 million worth of NAND chips to go into its iPod players. Intel's move to incorporate NAND flash into a notebook platform would mark the first major extension of NAND flash into PCs. NAND flash, a type of computer memory that retains data even without a power supply, has proven especially popular for the new generation of consumer electronics devices, such as MP3 players and digital cameras. As a result, sales of flash chips have handily outpaced sales of other types of semiconductors in recent months. As companies have increasingly entered the NAND flash business however, there have been some concerns of a potential flash chip glut. Maloney said Intel was very interested in the use of NAND flash in mobile devices as well as in PCs. The Santa Rosa platform, an updated version of the company's popular Centrino brand, is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2007, according to Maloney. Maloney demonstrated the advantages of flash technology in PCs, by booting up two PCs on stage, one with flash, and the other without. The PC with flash booted up in about half the time. The flash-based PC also consumed slightly less power.
According to Maloney, the demonstration PC had 256 megabytes of NAND flash "under the hood." But he said it was still unclear how much flash would be incorporated into the Santa Rosa platform. "The technology scales way up," said Maloney. "It just comes down to what's the cost curve on NAND." At some point, he said, there is the potential of running a PC's entire operating system from NAND instead of from the hard drive, where it currently resides. "Again, it's something that comes down to price," said Maloney.