SAMSUNG'S brash assertion that flash memory will overhaul disk drives has competing drive makers saying the hard drive is far from extinct.
The assertion was made by Samsung semiconductor division president Chang-Gyu Hwang when the company announced it had developed the world's highest density 16Gb NAND memory device.
NAND is the most widely used memory for multi-feature mobile applications.
Memory is opening a new world in consumer electronics, Samsung semiconductor business president and chief executive Chang-Gyu Hwang says.
According to Samsung, the 16Gb NAND density was created with the industry's first direct use of 50-nanometer technology in mass production processes and by using Samsung's 3D transistor architecture.
The demand for the high-capacity NAND chips has been exploding, boosted by strong demand for digital gadgets such as portable digital music players, digital cameras, voice recorders and mobile phones.
Although flash already dominates in such areas, it trails disk drives in devices such as laptop computers, where storage capacity and cost are essential. Neither Seagate Technologies nor Hitachi Global Storage make flash, and market researcher IDC predicts disk drives for consumer electronics will account for 40 per cent of industry sales by 2008 compared with 20 per cent this year.
Seagate executives say hard-disk drive technology is far from dead and it is not in danger of being replaced by memory chips anytime soon.
Seagate chief executive Bill Watkins says he welcomes competition from flash memory and the need for larger amounts of mobile and home storage is boosting demand for his company's products.
The company reported first-quarter profit growth of more than 400 per cent as Seagate increased sales in all its major business areas.
Seagate says its strongest growth was is sales of consumer electronics and mobile computing products.
Western Digital spokesman Steve Shattuck says the company has not yet entered a market in which flash competes with hard drives, but it will be soon marketing a 1in drive.
"Western Digital's position is that, although fast-growing, the 1in and smaller market is not a relatively high-volume one currently - 1in and .85in drives represent about 4 per cent of the overall market for hard drives," he says.
"The company is entering the market because it is an underserved area and we see long-term potential."
Flash and hard drives will co-exist: flash serving the low end (currently 500MB to 2GB) of the 1in-and-smaller market and HDs serving the high end (6GB and larger), where more capacity for files and more sophisticated applications is required, he says.
In the middle is where the two compete.
Shattuck says 16Gb NAND flash chips are a long way off - at least 18 months.
Samsung has just introduced a mobile phone with 3GB of storage and it uses a hard drive, he says.
The overall hard-drive industry - including 3.5in drives for desktops and corporate servers and storage systems, 2.5in drives for notebooks, 1.8in drives for small notebooks and handheld devices such as Apple's iPod and iPod video, and the 1in and .85in drives - is expected to grow by 15-17 per cent annually.
The assertion that flash will replace all hard drives in the relatively near future is absurd, Shattuck says.