CES: Samsung says NAND flash for more than iPods

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Samsung Semiconductor Inc. sees its popular NAND flash memory chips doing a lot more than just providing storage for iPod music players this year.

The company envisions MMCs (Multi Media Card) that take on a few major jobs the memory can perform, including taking on DVDs as a medium to deliver full-length movies and finding a home in more cellular handsets.

“You’ll certainly see (MMC) sockets on a lot more handsets this year,” said Don Barnetson, associate director of flash marketing at Samsung Semiconductor. The sockets, or MMC drives, will give users more memory for songs they’re listening to and photos they’re taking with their cellular handsets.

Copyright protection is a major hurdle for technology companies in gaining the backing of content providers such as movie industry companies and music labels. Samsung has built a secure MMC that holds a song file as well as the license for the file to meet the requirement.

For consumers, the use of MMCs would enable them to use their content in multiple devices. “It’s yours rather than your device’s,” Barnetson said. “It liberates the content.”

For a long time, memory cards didn’t provide enough storage space for full-length movies, but they do now. Samsung already offers 1 gigabyte (GB) MMCs, and that’s enough for a movie. It also sells 2GB MMCs, and larger capacities are on the way.

Another advantage of a 1GB card is it could contain entire programs with content. A GPS (Global Positioning System) mapping system complete with the application to launch it as well as detailed maps of an area could fit on one MMC.

The company reckons NAND flash will move into two other main areas this year, by acting as a cache to speed up programs and save battery life in notebook computers, and becoming an alternative for hard disk drives in some devices.

For about $2 or $3 of NAND flash used as writing cache inside a notebook computer, a user could save 20 to 30 minutes of battery time, said Barnetson. For example, programs could write information to the cache, which could update the hard disk drive at wider intervals to save energy, he explained.

Such a cache could also speed up PC boot up times by up to 8.5 seconds and launch oft-used programs much faster than opening them from the hard disk, he said.

The company’s Solid State Disk, which is based on NAND flash and currently boasts 16GBs of storage, is already going into notebook PCs, blade servers and workstations, among other devices, and as storage space grows, SSDs could challenge hard disks.

The storage space inside the company’s NAND flash chips is growing exponentially as Samsung’s chip production technology advances, and that will increase its chance to move in on hard disk drives and expand its use in other areas. Now, the company is mass producing 4 gigabit (Gb) NAND flash memory. Early this year, it will ramp up production of 8Gb chips, and by late 2006, 16Gb NAND will be in mass production.

This story, "CES: Samsung says NAND flash for more than iPods" was originally published by PCWorld.

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