High-capacity flash chip is a PC maker's dream

APPLE A DAY

Plugged In

October 25, 2007|By DAVID ZEILER

While it won't be available until 2009, Korean electronics company Samsung has unveiled a new type of flash memory chip that it says will enable the manufacture of 128-gigabyte memory cards.

Oh, what Apple could do with a 128 GB flash card.

Apple uses flash memory in many of its products, most notably its iPod and iPhone. Flash memory requires less power and is far less fragile than a hard drive, but provides much less storage space - at least in the capacities available today. While the hard drive-based iPod Classic comes in 80 GB and 160 GB versions - capable of holding 20,000 songs and 40,000 songs respectively - the 16 GB iPod Touch, Apple's largest-capacity flash-based product, holds just 3,500 songs.

The availability of even 64 or 32 GB flash memory would invigorate the entire iPod product line. A 128 GB Nano would almost certainly kill the iPod Classic. And the introduction of higher-capacity iPhones would help keep that product moving off the shelves.

But it's not just iPods and iPhones that would benefit from beefier sizes of flash memory. Apple and other PC makers would love to replace the hard drives in their laptops with flash memory to help stretch battery life and provide a hardier storage mechanism less prone to damage if the device is dropped. Apple is supposedly planning to include flash memory in future Mac laptops to enable much faster startup times.

Knowing Apple, uses like that would just be the beginning. I can envision the Apple skunkworks in Cupertino dreaming up entirely new products. In the near term, such chips could be very valuable as part of Apple's long-rumored "mini-computer" that allegedly uses the same touch screen technology as the iPhone.

Over the past several years Apple has gained a reputation as a flash memory hog, gobbling up supplies worldwide from many chip makers, including Samsung. If I were Steve Jobs I'd be on the next plane to Korea.

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