With all this talk about cheaper laptops for the third world, it’s easy to miss how inexpensive memory has become for us members of the first. I once prophesized to a colleague that by the end of this decade, a terabyte hard drive would be available for less than US$100. I was referring, of course, to conventional magnetic hard drives.
I wasn’t really going out on a limb. We’re edging closer to that goal seemingly every day, but Best Buy circular has yet to appear with deals that good (Samsung in a May 21 announcement unveiled a one terabyte unit for $199). And while I’m not here to tell you that solid state drives will cross the finish line first, a partnership borne in 2005 between Intel and Micron gives me hope that SSDs will soon become much more affordable.
IM Flash Technologies, the company jointly owned by the two giants, announced Thursday that it will begin shipping samples later this month of a 32 GB NAND flash product built using the ultra small 32nm process. That’s about the size of a thumbnail. The 32GB flash chip, the company says, could store more than 2,000 high-resolution digital photos in a digital camera, for example, or 1,000 songs on a personal music player. A pair of 8-die stacked packages “would be enough for recording [up to] 40 hours of high-definition video in a digital camcorder.” Mass production is expected to begin in the second half of this year.
But the main intention for the chips, the company says, is for solid state drives. “The product will enable more cost-effective SSDs, instantly doubling the current storage volume of these devices and driving capacities to beyond 256 GBs in today’s standard, smaller 1.8-inch form factor,” the company says. Advantages of solid state over magnetic drives include faster data access and shorter boot times, better reliability (no moving parts) and lower power consumption. The cost to SSD manufacturers is estimated to be about $1 per GB, less than half what they’re currently paying.