Laptop computers using some form of flash memory for data storage will account for half of global sales by the fourth quarter of 2009, according to iSuppli.

These predictions emerge as rumours claiming Apple is developing a subnotebook that uses flash memory continue to circulate across the Mac industry.

iSuppli believes that by the fourth quarter of 2009, 24 million notebooks will be sold with some form of flash data storage, compared to 143,600 in the first quarter of 2007, iSuppli predicts. That's nearly 60 per cent of anticipated laptop sales.

“Enabling the use of flash data storage in PCs is the dramatic decline in prices for NAND-type memory parts employed in such solutions,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, computer platforms for iSuppli. “In 2003, 1GB of NAND flash memory was nearly 100 times as expensive as an equivalent quantity of HDD storage, according to iSuppli. By 2009, that price gap will dwindle to a factor of slightly less than 14.”

However, with flash still far more expensive than HDDs, other factors besides cost will compel PC OEMs and consumers to adopt it.

“Flash-based data storage provides significant performance improvements compared to traditional rotating magnetic storage now used in notebook PCs,” Wilkins said. “Increased performance is achieved due to the fast read times of flash memory compared to HDDs, which reduce loading times for operating systems and applications. Flash also offers improved reliability, better shock resistance and lower power consumption compared to HDDs.”
Three different approaches now are being offered for flash data storage in PCs: Intel’s Robson, Hybrid Hard Disk Drives (HHDs), and Solid State Drives (SSDs). Each of these technologies delivers performance improvements compared to conventional HDDs.

Ultraportable and mainstream notebook PCs will show similar penetration of flash data storage throughout the next two years.

The predictions are contained within iSuppli's latest research report The PC Crystal Ball – Technology Penetration Database.