SanDisk has launched a 32GB solid-state drive using flash memory chips, intended as a replacement for conventional hard-disk drives.Notebooks equipped with the new drive, which is expected to add around US$600 to the cost of a machine, could be available in the first half of 2007, SanDisk said Thursday.Samsung Electronics, a maker of computers and flash memory, announced last May that it would sell laptops with flash-memory drives of a similar capacity. Samsung\u2019s drive then added about $1,175 to the cost of its laptop.The launch of SanDisk\u2019s drive means that other notebook computer manufacturers will be able to offer the fast, durable, low-power consumption storage devices made possible by using flash memory, according to the Milpitas, Calif., manufacturer.Until now, large-capacity flash-based drives found buyers primarily in the military, aerospace and telecommunications industries, which require systems that can operate under challenging environmental conditions. The declining cost of NAND flash memory, however, has made solid-state drives economically viable in other areas, including notebook computing, SanDisk said.Unlike conventional hard drives, which need to spin into action to seek files, flash memory-based drives contain no moving parts. The 32GB drive, for instance, can boot up Microsoft\u2019s new Windows Vista operating system in 35 seconds, compared to 55 seconds for a notebook with a hard-disk drive, according to SanDisk. The SanDisk drive also offers average file-access rates of 0.12 milliseconds, compared to 19 milliseconds in machines with a hard-disk drive.Another advantage of the flash memory drive, SanDisk said, is its comparatively low power consumption. The chip requires 0.4 watts during active operation compared to 1 watt in most hard drives.SanDisk will offer the drive to equipment manufacturers in a 1.8-inch package.-John Blau, IDG News Service (Dusseldorf Bureau)Related Link:\n\nMicrosoft Windows Vista: The OS Has LandedCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.