Intel is making waves with its new Robson caching system for laptops. It is probably only a matter of time before hybrid systems combining high-speed flash memory and solid-state hard drives hit the market. Intel has jumpstarted the game by caching the operating system and applications in flash memory that allows the hard-drive to remain dormant while the system boots from the flash memory. The only things left to load from the drive are any client files, or if necessary the swap file.
The benefits here are multifold. The power required to operate flash memory, which has no moving parts is much less than operating a standard hard drive, so battery life should improve drastically. Hopefully, the first Intel PowerBooks will use the Robson technology. This could be what Steve Jobs was referring to when he talked about performance per-watt versus what could be done by the IBM system architecture. The processor isn't everything, but if Intel has some additional insight into flash memory with advanced read speeds, it could improve perceived speed very significantly. I'll be watching to see which vendors come out with portables using Robson before Apple releases the new PowerBooks. But then Apple could vindicate themselves in my eyes with new PowerBooks and PowerMacs tomorrow. It looks like it might finally happen, and I am very excited!