RUMOR: Apple to employ Intel’s ‘Robson’ NAND flash tech to create ‘instant-on’ Macs

“I think Apple’s going to be offering instant-on computers in the very near future. Make that near-instant. Faster than normal, anyway. And some of these may just be the integrated music and video home-media boxes people have been predicting ever since the iPod redefined Apple’s game,” Seth Jayson writes for The Motley Fool. “Robson is the name… that Intel has given its upcoming technology to integrate NAND flash into computers. It will load important chunks of the operating system into flash memory, where it remains even when the machine is powered down. On restart, a computer won’t need to go through so much of the usual laborious process of grabbing data from the hard drive, loading it into RAM, reporting it to the Men In Black, and so on. Intel has so far been showing off this technology in laptops, where it promises to provide longer battery life. But there’s another related benefit.”

Jayson writes, “It might be possible to get these things to start up instantly — or nearly so… So Intel’s got simple, desirable, potentially market-shaking technology that could make computers turn on as quickly as our toasters. It uses flash memory. Apple’s already working with Intel for Macintosh processing chips. And Apple also just happens to have paid Intel’s joint venture a $500 million advance to start making flash chips… It’s my bet that Apple will not only move in this direction but also get there before the rest of the crowd.”

Full article here.

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Now, as any PowerBook, iBook or really any Mac OS X user will tell you, Mac OS X machines are kind of “instant-on” already. Just “Sleep” by closing the lid or by choosing “Sleep” from the Apple Menu instead of shutting down and when you want the Mac “on”, just open up your PowerBook’s or iBook’s lid or jiggle your desktop Mac’s mouse (or hit any key on the keyboard). With insanely great uptimes, Macs are just “on” or “off” (asleep) these days.

That said, what Jayson describes would be true “instant-on” for Macs and it would pave the way for reliable, quick-to-power-up Macs and Apple appliances. Like a stereo receiver or a kitchen appliance, your Mac or any Apple appliance or component (DVR – flash for the instant-on OS, hard drive for the storage – perhaps?) would just be “on” with a press of the power button and “off” with another press. Just think about all of the possibilities beyond the Mac that exist in the living room and elsewhere for Apple to use this technology. And it would be just like Apple to do it first.

41 Comments

  1. instant on is more important for PC users because they have to reboot so often to clear memory, recover from crashes. Also, I notice that PC people often shut their laptop down when leaving Starbucks rather than just closing the lid.

  2. I don’t see this as any advantage. What MDN says is true that the Mac wakes up from sleep very quickly but can actually pause until the hard drives spin up, then its up and running. OS from Flash may be able to save this spin up time but I would bet there is something on the hard drive the OS will want and then it has to wait to spin up anyway. From Power up, the OS has to actually assemble itself, that is what takes so much time at power up, not the spin up or access to drives. I don’t see where Flash would change this. If it could then you could store what ever you were going to store in Flash on the drive and power up into an assumed assembled OS. This could be done now and Intel is doing work in this area, but it doesn’t need Flash. Even on a PC you can enable Hibernation which is the same as this would be.

  3. This would be awesome. Not to mention all the other benefits that could come with this…. with dual core chips… have one core sift through the NAND and the other sift through the HD…. or does it not work like that?

  4. In the PC world, it’s often called “hibernation”. Sleep mode requires power to be applied because the contents of RAM need to be preserved, where hibernation writes the entire RAM to disk and thus is a no-power state.

    It takes a long time, though, to restart from a hibernated state, since all the data has to be reloaded into RAM from the disk, which takes a while. If the data was in flash, the startup would be very fast.

    Apple would create a more sensible system than what a PC has, though. Imagine a Powerbook that sleeps as usual when you close the lid, but after an hour or so in the sleep state would silently write the RAM to flash and turn off completely. This would be completely transparent to the user.

  5. Honker,

    Did you miss this part of MDN’s take? MDN isn’t missing anything:

    That said, what Jayson describes would be true “instant-on” for Macs and it would pave the way for reliable, quick-to-power-up Macs and Apple appliances. Like a stereo receiver or a kitchen appliance, your Mac or any Apple appliance or component (DVR, perhaps?) would just be “on” with a press of the power button and “off” with another press. Just think about all of the possibilities beyond the Mac that exist in the living room and elsewhere for Apple to use this technology. And it would be just like Apple to do it first.

  6. We would anyone need instant-on when super stable MacOSX really doesnt require that you shut it off.

    Mine stays on all the time. If I didnt update and install software I’d never reboot. Still not a bad technology for laptops.

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