Feature Article

July 21, 2010

In a Flash, We Start with a Clean Slate

Okay, here is the question of day: Who buys 40 percent of the world’s Flash memory production?

Survey says: Apple.

Who is going to have to take a lesson from Apple? Anyone looking to compete using e-readers, Slates and smartphones.

Turns out that one reason your experience is so good with Apple is that I/O storage is not hampered by disk writes. And if you want to support the next wave of video and ebooks, solid state flash memory is going to be part of your design.

As Gordon Moore has pointed out, solid state drives (a.k.a. Flash memory) have been a core component to keeping Moore’s law on track.

To the investors in the audience Hynix, Intel, Micron Technology, Phison, Samsung, Sandisk and Sony.

Sandisk is probably the most visible in the space as many of our smartphones have mini and microSD slots, but the big players to watch are Intel, Samsung and Sony. Cheaper, Smaller Faster are driving forces. Flash has gotten to the point where it fits into mobile phones.

Intel, Samsung and Sony have significant risk at various levels in the food chain. Intel will protect its dominance in the PC market with a commitment to pushing “Slates” (a.k.a Intel I wanna be an iPad). Sony with Ericsson is ARMed to protect their view of mobile. And then there is Samsung, who is participating at all levels in 4G.

The semiconductor market is always a bit volatile, It takes a lot of investment and projecting the right size and shape for the future is a formidable task.

Smaller does not necessarily mean mobile however.

Talking with Kumar Ganapathy, CEO of Virident (http://www.virident.com/ ) last week about Flash Memory I was struck by just how far the industry had come. While it would cost me some bucks, I could use Virident’s solutions to create a data center in my own office that would rival many data centers. And the systems would be greener too since the watts used with these systems is a significant reduction. 

The bottom line is Flash memory has hit that spot talked about in the Innovators Dilemma where the economies of scale are going to drive this generation of computers into a solid state of memory. It may not be immediate, but it will happen in a flash.

Carl Ford is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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