Apple isn't alone in opening the doors to flash encroachment on traditional hard drives. All-in-one hybrid models like the Momentus XT that combine NAND flash and spinning disks in the same drive are already on the market. To date, Seagate has been the main supplier of those drives, although Samsung dipped its toe in the market four years ago with the HDD-FlashON line . But it has done nothing with hybrids since. Recently, however, hard disk drive maker Seagate strengthened its ties with worldwide NAND flash producer Samsung -- a deal that industry analysts think will result in faster development of the kind of hybrid drives that could take advantage of the Z68 chipset in the new iMacs.
On top of that, Intel -- which worked closely with Apple on the new Thunderbolt connectivity technology -- is making noises about its own hybrid drives , which could spur drive development to move even faster.
The iMac isn't the only recent Apple product to become more SSD friendly. The MacBook Pro models unveiled in February are also optimized to take better advantage of SSDs.
The latest MacBook Pro models use the SATA 3.0 specification for the internal drive connection, which can take full advantage of a new breed of SSDs that also use the latest 6Gbit/sec SATA specification. (It's the same connection speed yesterday's iMac firmware update enabled.)
In stock form, the new MacBook Pro comes with a 750GB 5400rpm hard disk drive. But Apple allows customers to upgrade the laptop with one of three capacities of SSD: 128GB, 256GB or 512GB. Moving to an SSD significantly boosts the computer's speed but adds hundreds of dollars to the final price, depending on which model you're buying.
The SATA 3.0 specification is important because it doubles the bandwidth over SATA 2.0 from 3Gbps to 6Gbps. Given that SSDs can send bursts of data at speeds beyond 3Gbps, the higher bandwidth means potentially more speed in the future.
IDC Analyst Jeff Janukawicz said SATA 3.0 is important because of an SSD's vastly better performance over a hard disk drive, particularly in server-client architectures.