Samsung unveils 4GB Flash memory

Samsung Electronics announced a breakthrough in flash memory for mass storage last week with a 4GB flash device in a 70-nanometer chip.

The 70nm form factor will replace the 90nm chip that held 2GB, and it will allow for 50 percent higher performance, writing at 16MBps.

The performance boost will eventually give users the ability to store high-definition video images.

The company is producing the flash in volume now and is ramping up from 4,000 wafers per month in June to 15,000 per month by the end of the year.

Although some industry experts claim flash may someday replace rotating disk drives even in laptop computers, Nathan Brookwood, senior analyst at Insight 64, called that possibility a "fantasy."

"Every time the solid-state industry gets up there, then the rotating-storage guys reduce the cost per byte or the form factor," Brookwood said. "That's what keeps the disk-drive guys in business," Brookwood added.

However, the real battle is taking place on MP3 players such as Apple's iPod. Currently the iPod and the iPod mini use a rotating disk whereas the iPod shuffle uses flash.

According to Brookwood, if Samsung reduces the price of flash, things will get interesting in the MP3 arena.

Although Intel also produces flash memory, it is the market leader in what is called NOR flash, which is used in cellular phones because it stores both the code that drives a cellular phone and the data. Samsung is the market leader in NAND flash, which is used only for data and is typically found in digital cameras and MP3 players.