Microsoft denies Sony's Vista hardware claims

Software giant insists that the current release of Windows Vista does support hybrid drives and Intel's Turbo Memory, but Sony stands firm as it elaborates on its claims

Microsoft has denied Sony's claim that the current release of Vista supports neither Intel's Turbo Memory technology nor hybrid hard drives.

The spat between the companies arose after Sony revealed to that it would not include Turbo Memory — an embedded flash memory module formerly known by its code name Robson — in this summer's Vaio notebooks because Vista will not allow the benefits of Turbo Memory to be utilised until Service Pack 1 (SP1) of the operating system is released later this year.

Turbo Memory is an optional component of Intel's Centrino Pro/Duo platform (previously known as Santa Rosa), which makes use of Vista features such as ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive. These features use non-volatile "third-stage" memory alongside a computer's RAM and traditional hard drive to boost performance and start-up time. Most manufacturers are ready to release Centrino Pro notebooks that include Turbo Memory, although HP has turned it down due to worries over cost efficiency and the limitations it places on users who want to use external flash memory to boost performance.

Microsoft told on Thursday that Sony's claims were incorrect. "Windows Vista supports Intel's Turbo Memory, and Microsoft and Intel have worked together to ensure that Turbo Memory works with Windows Vista technologies that support intelligent NVRAM cache management: SuperFetch, ReadyBoost, and ReadyDrive," a statement from the company read. "Microsoft will continue to enhance and optimise these features, but there are no issues which we are aware of that would prevent [manufacturers] from adopting Turbo Memory for great performance results with Windows Vista."

Sony defended its stance. David Spaeth, product specialist for the Vaio range, claimed the omission of support for Turbo Memory and hybrid hard disk drives (H-DDs) in the current release of Vista arose during the finalisation of Vista. "It was delayed by a year or more," he told on Thursday. "Microsoft sat down and said 'OK, to get Vista into the market, what are the really important parts of the software we need for launch?' They had to cross out or skip some parts of the OS, and one of these things was the support of this third-stage memory."

"[Microsoft] saw there was no hardware allowing this kind of third-stage memory so they said, 'Let's postpone this support and keep this for SP1'," Spaeth continued. "Which means that, for the moment, if you go to [some manufacturers] they have some models this summer with Robson [Turbo Memory]. If you were to purchase one of those machines today, obviously you have the hardware, but Vista will only [allow] a 10 to 15 percent performance increase." Turbo Memory offers a performance increase of around two times for disk-intensive normal operation, as well as an average battery-life boost of 20 minutes and a significant reduction in start-up time, according to Intel.

Elaborating further, Spaeth explained that Vista currently cannot recognise which kinds of processes and files need to be preloaded into Turbo Memory. "When they talk about performance increases on applications, the information of the application needs to be in the Robson memory or H-DD. If you turn on your PC and there's nothing in this Robson memory that is boot-relevant, there is no performance increase. Boot time will not be touched at all because Vista will basically need to learn from you as a user which applications you use the most."

"From [Sony's] perspective, we are a Japanese company and the Japanese mindset is to only bring to market what gives users benefit straightaway," said Spaeth. "If a customer purchases a Vaio with Robson [they should be able to] compare the Robson model with non-Robson and see, 'I have longer battery life and faster applications'." He added that Sony would probably bring out Turbo Memory-enabled notebooks after Vista SP1 appears towards the end of this year.


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