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Intel's New Haswell Processor Could Help Spur Solid-State Drive Market

20 May 2013

The new Haswell processor from chipmaker Intel Corp. could help spur sales of slow-moving Ultrabooks as they provide even more advanced functionality for the superthin computers, in the process stimulating the storage market for solid-state drives (SSD) in a big way, according to an IHS iSuppli Storage Space brief from information and analytics provider IHS.

While SSD prospects are improving steadily in mobile PCs like Ultrabooks and similarly built ultrathins, Haswell can boost the SSD market even further by stoking sales of Ultrabooks because of new functionalities from the power-efficient processor, including long battery life similar to that offered by tablets as well as faster graphics performance.  

Global SSD shipments this year for mobile PCs will amount to a projected 60.5 million units, up a notable 142 percent from 25.0 million units last year, with double-digit growth expected each year until at least 2017. By then, SSD shipments for mobile PCs will amount to some 194.2 million units, a near-eightfold surge within a five-year period.

Intel's Haswell with its next-generation capabilities could be an important catalyst for the Ultrabook and ultrathin PC market, with the processor exerting an especially outsized impact on manufacturers producing cache SSD drives. Working alongside a hard disk drive component as storage medium for the superthin computers, cache SSDs allow manufacturers to lower the cost of ultrathin PCs while nearly approximating the speed of previous-generation and much more expensive pure SSDs. A lower retail cost for ultrathins and Ultrabooks, coupled with Haswell's advanced capabilities, could then lure more consumers into considering superthin PCs as viable competitors to currently popular rival devices like smartphones and tablets.

For Ultrabooks and ultrathins, the need for Haswell to resuscitate the mobile PC trade can't come at a more opportune time. The superthin PCs have not taken off as expected since their launch last year, and even a much-publicized unveiling of the new Microsoft Windows 8 system tailored to match Ultrabook capabilities did not catch fire among consumers. On top of the faltering sales, mobile PCs are under siege from smartphones and tablets and possibly future hardware like wearable electronics, which consumers feel are more responsive and less onerous to carry given their greatly reduced form factor.

In tandem with Haswell and the performance boost from solid-state drives or their components like cache SSDs, ultrathins and Ultrabooks are mounting a challenge to the threat from their rival gadgets. Cost is a main factor, with PC brands and retailers alike seeking to find a price point that would prove appealing to consumers after thousand-dollar, pure-SSD options did not sell well in the market. Other potential PC cost reductions that could help lower the overall price of Ultrabooks and ultrathins in the future could come from combined SSD and HDD controllers, as well as a reduction in the cost of non-storage superthin components like screens, processors, batteries and operating systems.

For Ultrabooks and ultrathins to be successful in 2013 and beyond, the mobile PCs must bring what consumers want-responsiveness, desirable battery life and an intuitive interface comparable to media tablets, not to older PCs. Haswell will not make or break the SSD market, but it could well be the trump card to finally catalyze short-term mobile PC growth and lead the Ultrabook-ultrathin market out of its slump-in turn further lifting SSD coffers and fortunes.

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