A Laptop Innovation We All Need

by Braden Kelley

Intel and AMD are making processors faster, ATI and nVidia continue to accelerate graphics and video, while faster memory and buses underpin both. Meanwhile, hard disks are spinning a bit faster, but getting bigger at the same time. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems like hard disk access speed continues to be the bottleneck. So can our laptops really get much faster?

The answer is hopefully yes, and here is an idea that hopefully will make them faster and more reliable at the same time. Some of you may have heard of SSD (Solid State Disk), but probably only a handful of you have ever had your hands on a machine with one built-in. For those who don’t know what an SSD is, it is a small capacity “disk” made of flash memory chips that retain information without power. By small capacity I mean that most current implementations are 32gb in size (small when compared to 250gb laptop hard drives). An SSD is useful for the following reasons:

  1. Uses less power than a hard disk
  2. Faster access than a hard disk
  3. Can be used together with a hard disk

Because of these advantages, and SSD is an ideal place to store an operating system to speed boot time, improve responsiveness, and extend laptop battery life.

These features and benefits make an SSD very useful, but not necessarily very valuable (the price might be too high for many). Now I haven’t seen how people are implementing SSD’s in laptops, but I wanted to make my case for the solution that would make such a laptop very valuable to the mass market (thus creating a true innovation). It works like this:

  1. SSD is upgradeable as memory prices per gigabyte drop
  2. Laptop comes with the operating system installed on the SSD
  3. Laptop comes with the operating system installed on the hard disk
  4. Laptop comes with an application that allows you to choose which to boot from on startup
  5. Laptop comes with a one-click application that does the following:
    • Reformat and optimize the SSD
    • Does a fresh install of the operating system onto the SSD
    • Re-installs operating system level components of compliant applications
    • Gives you a list of non-compliant applications and the option to remove them
      (these applications would have to be reinstalled manually to work properly)

Why would this be so much better than what we have now?

Well, one way to fix some of the worst computer problem is to do a low level format of the hard disk and re-install your operating system and applications. This would make it almost painless to do this, and would allow users to keep their computer in peak performance at all times instead of limping along until they have time to do a full backup and restore. I’m limping along waiting for that moment as we speak. This all seems perfectly doable, but I wonder whether laptop manufacturers will deliver dumb SSD’s or something more intelligent, to move from useful to valuable, and reap the rewards from the true innovation.

What do you think?

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