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Intel Prepares Flash Attack

The chipmaker is ramping up its focus on flash memory products.



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is getting more serious about flash.

The company outlined plans at its developer conference this week to sell flash memory as a replacement for magnetic hard drives in laptops and corporate servers.

The move represents a sharpening of Intel's flash memory efforts, and comes almost two years after the company

formed a joint venture to manufacture NAND flash memory with


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It also raises the pressure on



, which is trying

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to parlay its business selling flash memory for cell phones and digital cameras into the PC world. In April, SanDisk announced a deal to provide PC maker


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with 32GB flash-based hard drives for its corporate notebooks.

Flash memory is a type of memory that stores data even when a device's power is switched off. The technology is faster, more power-efficient and more resistant to physical shocks than the traditional magnetic hard drives found in PCs today.

In a special panel at the company's conference Wednesday, Intel storage technology and manufacturing director Knut Grimsrud discussed plans to offer an 80GB flash-based drive, or solid state drive, designed for notebook PCs.

In a live demonstration, Intel showed a notebook featuring the flash drive running through a battery of operations three times faster than another notebook sporting a traditional hard drive.

Grimsrud said the notebook flash drive will be based on MLC (multilevel cell) technology, a less expensive form of NAND flash memory than the SLC (singlelevel cell) technology currently used by most companies for solid-state hard drives. That could help Intel price its solid state drives at a more affordable level than some of the products currently on the market, increasing the appeal of its drives to a broader set of customers.

Of course, companies like SanDisk are also racing to deliver MLC-based flash drives. And it is unclear how close Intel's MLC technology is to being ready for prime time.

Grimsrud said he was not ready to announce release dates for Intel's solid state drives, describing them more as initiatives than commercial products at this point.

On Tuesday, however, Senior Vice President Patrick Gelsinger announced another solid state drive intended for corporate servers, which he said will be available in 2008. The server version of the solid state drive will use SLC technology, which is considered more reliable than MLC.

"We believe this will revolutionize storage in the data center of tomorrow," Gelsinger said.

Until now, Intel's NAND flash memory efforts have primarily focused on integrating the chips onto a PC's motherboard -- something Intel calls TurboMemory -- as a means of providing a speed boost for everyday computing tasks. Adoption of that technology has

lagged, however, as some PC makers contend it does not offer sufficient performance benefit to justify the extra price.

Shares of Intel finished Wednesday's regular session up 27 cents at $25.68.