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Speak, memory! The eternal search for notebooks with flash drives

Good news for us computer geeks! PCs are nearly ready to ditch hard drives for faster, less energy-intensive drives with flash memory, like in a camera or cell phone, according to memory maker Micron, which ought to know. That is exciting news for victims of crashed hard drives and people who always want something new.

“I think it’ll be a story in 2011, and it’ll be pretty good penetration in 2012. But, you know, maybe I’m wrong,” said Mark Durcan, president and chief operating officer of Micron, during the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

Sadly, he may well be right about the last part. The last Micron exec to speak about so-called solid state drives to an appreciatively nerdy Reuters summit was CEO Steve Appleton, who in November 2005 predicted that flash drives would replace hard drives within five years. Actually, he’s still got time, but folks better hurry!

SUMMIT/TECHThere are some notebooks with flash drives (like Apple’s super-thin MacBook Air) and  Durcan says consumers love ‘em. Hiccups with the technology from a year and a half or so are gone — power efficiency now beats hard drives, and annoying problems which slowed solid state drives have been solved, he said, comparing now with when Appleton spoke, on the cusp of 2006.

“In 2006 it was the promise. It wasn’t the reality. But it’s real now.” Still, he added, computer makers are wary of the volatile prices.

Intel vs AMD: battle spills over into battery life

(Posted by Clare Baldwin)

Advanced Microchip Devices Inc is arguing that laptop battery life should be measured the same way as cellphone battery life: in terms of idle time and talk time.

AMD first raised the issue in a blog post in March, but is again making the rounds to convey its message that current standards, which it says measure the equivalent of standby mode in a cell phone, is misleading consumers.

Why exactly is this issue so important to AMD? Because under current standards, laptops based on arch-foe Intel’s chips demonstrate significantly better battery life. Under alternative standards, their battery life is roughly equivalent to AMD’s.

AMD’s ATI breaks 1Ghz barrier — for real?

In the highly demanding (and some say shrinking) world of PC gaming, only two graphics powers really count: reigning popular champ Nvidia and AMD’s ATI division. Now it looks like ATI’s Radeon may have got a bit of a lead on its arch-foe.

ATI, once considered a perennial also-ran to Nvidia’s cutting-edge graphics chips, has become the first to crack what it called the 1 Gigahertz barrier on standard air-cooling. Pounding its chest, the company trumpeted on Wednesday the milestone and talked about “amazing gaming experiences” for the likes of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. and Electronic Arts’ Battleforge.

It would be interesting to see how Nvidia — whose logo still appears more often alongside cutting-edge games such as medieval third-person actioner Assassin’s Creed to blockbuster first-person shooter Crysis — will respond in their never-ending arms race.

AMD gains on Intel as intrigue swirls

New data from research group IDC shows Advanced Micro Devices gained on arch rival Intel in the first quarter PC microprocessor market. There is of course still a huge gap between the two — Intel earned a 77.3 percent unit global market share, a loss of 4.7 percent, while AMD held 22.3 percent, a gain of 4.6 percent — but it’s all the more interesting given the intrigue swirling around the two companies.

EU antitrust regulators are expected to issue a ruling Wednesday that Intel illegally paid PC makers to postpone or cancel the launch of products using chips made by AMD, sources have told Reuters. The European Commission believes the violations occurred during a period stretching back eight years, the sources said. Intel could be hit with a sizable fine.

Intel, with revenue of $37.6 billion in 2008, dominates the microprocessor market. AMD posted revenue of $5.8 billion in 2008.

Would-be dance star Wozniak tangos with Apple chip strategy

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, perhaps best-known to today’s generation for doing the Argentine Tango with world champion Karina Smirnoff on “Dancing with the Stars,” weighed in this weekend on Apple’s apparent foray into chip design.

Wozniak was a calculator chip designer at Hewlett-Packard before he and Steve Jobs founded Apple. He said that designing a chip should only cost a few million dollars. If Apple, like all PC makers, continues to contract the manufacturing, the endeavor shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.

“I have been pushing for it since we started the company,” Wozniak said in an interview on the sidelines of the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Silicon Valley last Saturday. “It’s a competitive advantage.”