Saturday, May 26, 2018
Publication Date:09/1/2007
Archive >  September 2007 Issue >  Tech Watch > 
Flash Memory: Nothing Less Than World Domination

In today's business world, we don't simply travel, we take along our camcorder, digital camera, iPod, smartphone, PMP and PC. We may not need all those trappings and their content but, you never know.

So we accumulate personal content from experience, our imagination, friends/family and the web. We're gathering so much information, our minds can't sort, file, hold it anymore. We've abandoned physical filing cabinets for digital storage, hard drive, optical, flash. We've become so used to tapping into our content that having it buried inside a desktop computer doesn't satisfy us.

People now want their content with them all the time. Teens, tweens and Gen-Xers are the worst — we know we have two. To them, sitting and thinking is a terrible thing. Give them two minutes of silence and all they can say is, "I'm BOOOORED." They want their content portable so they can have it with them all the time.

That's why the PC/CE industry keeps rushing new technology, new products to market. They're struggling to meet the consumer's demands and anticipate the next killer solution. Sure some of the stuff is pirated but not as much as the RIAA and MPAA would like you to believe.

People who have real jobs are using the new tools to express themselves and make their content available to the world in the hopes of acceptance, a following. Tons of music from independents is available on the web from sites like and others.

Setting Content Free
EMI and Universal (the moviemaker, not the SMT company) have realized that the best way to sell their content is to set it free and eliminate DRM (digital rights management) restrictions. Despite the fact that most of the content we create, copy, store and share is personal, Tellywood struggles to justify their position, "No, it's no mistake... IT'S AN ATTACK! I've been right all these years!"

The new cameras and camcorders enable people to capture great video. Software from Corel, Pinnacle and others make it almost a snap to produce theater-quality movies. MyPlace, YouTube and other sites make it easy for people to display their rich content no matter how stupid it is. Then we grab the content so we can have it just in case we want to listen to or watch it. We're happy just to have the content on our system's hard drive or to have a few hundred CDs and DVDs on the shelf.

Not so for teens, tweens or our kids. They want it on their smartphones, on their PMPs, on their iPods. It's no wonder the semiconductor storage (generically called flash memory) industry is so hot — mobile content needs to be stored.

For most folks it is simply a chip in their portable device that stores content. Or it's a 1, 2, 4 or 8GB Store 'n Go unit they stuff in their pocket. Not so for Samsung, Toshiba, SanDisk, Intel, Verbatim and others. To them it is a high volume (and high investment) business that has a vast amount of technology that has its own kind of Moore's Law of capacity expansion and price reductions.

Look deeply into almost any device or product today and you'll find a variety of memory types being used for custom and general purpose storage. In addition to the memory devices buried inside of the manufacturers' products consumers can't get enough of the rugged, portable storage, memory cards, flash drives, SD, Memory Sticks, CF, MMC and others. The CEA estimates that U.S. consumers will purchase over $4.5 billion worth of these storage devices this year.

It may not surprise you that a lot of people use these expensive chips for permanent storage because, well let's just say because.

The answer to your question, before you ask, is that they have a data life equivalent to quality CD/DVD media of around 50+ years.

Huge Fab Investments
This sounds great for the chip manufacturers but production investments are tremendous; Toshiba alone is investing close to $15 billion just to keep up with the technology advances, and profit margins are razor thin! Walk into Fry's, or go online to shop at such places as Tiger Direct, and you can buy flash memory for $10 a gigabyte.

That's great news for consumers but not so good for manufacturers who have to second guess what demand will be two to three years from now. Since semi memory has a lot of desirable features like I/O speed and low power consumption, the chip manufacturers see absolutely no reason why they shouldn't replace hard drives. They see semiconductor memory, everywhere!

The economics certainly work in their favor for lower capacities, up to 10GB; give it 3 years and it should be more than price competitive at sizes up to 64GB+.

Thanks to people's impatience in accessing their information and bloated stuff like Vista, flash is now being designed into HDs to buffer data. Seagate, the king of HDD makers, sees a place for flash in their traditional spinning disk market, so they have begun their own programs.

In the meantime SanDisk, Toshiba and others want to completely replace the HD at least in your notebook and in a number of enterprise applications. This works great where factors like battery life, IOPS (I/O operations per second) and space are prime considerations.

But, despite the logic of 32 to 64GB being sufficient for their notebooks, people still want more storage space for their stuff. Ever meet someone who went into a store to ask for a smaller HD?

The biggest challenge for corporate IT today is the fact that everyone uses these small storage devices. Two years ago, before they became so ubiquitous, more than 100,000 of these devices were found in Chicago cabs. Today it's worse.

Because people are beginning to use these memory devices as virtual computers, companies like Migo and others are delivering software that puts your personal operating environment and key data on 1 to 4GB drives. Use the device on anyone's system, remove it and leave no trace of your activity behind.

Of course that doesn't protect your content when you lose the little sucker, so the industry is developing a whole new breed of data protection including cryptography, passwords and certificate protocols. Semi memory manufacturers are sure they have the answers for you, all of the answers!

Only problem is content doesn't die; it grows and multiplies, like wire hangers in the closet. In fact, according to IDC this year we have more stuff than we have storage. Not really certain how that is possible unless there are petabytes of content sitting in the clouds waiting for someone to sell/buy more capacity. There's a demand, a huge demand, and need for more semi storage out there and it is only going to grow.

For more information, contact: Marken Communications, 3375 Scott Blvd., #108, Santa Clara, CA 95054 408-986-0100 fax: 408-986-0162 E-mail:  

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