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Flash - the Saviour


By Andy Marken - Posted on 09 November 2007

"Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror.- The Emperor Ming (Flash Gordon, 1936, Universal Studios)

Knowledge and imagination are dangerous things. We define ourselves by both. The more information we have...the more we want.

Information helps us develop new ideas...imagine more...create more...want more.

It was easy for Flash and Dale. They only had to take their wits with them to beat the diabolical Ming.

Today we'd have to take along our camcorder, digital camera, iPod, smartphone, PMP and PC.

You may not need all the trappings and content unless Zarkov asks you to check the angular vector of the moon... but you never know.

So we accumulate personal content from experience, our imagination, friends/family and the web. We're gathering so much information our minds can't sort, file, hold it anymore. We've abandon physical filing cabinets for digital storage - hard drive, optical, flash.

We've become so used to tapping into our content that having all of it buried inside a desktop computer doesn't satisfy us. People now want their content with them all the time.

Teens, tweens and Gen Xers are the worst (we know we have two). Sitting and thinking to them is a terrible thing. Give 'em two minutes of silence and they talk like Emperor Ming... "Klytus, I'm BOOOORED."

They want their content portable so they can have it with them all the time. That's why the PC/CE industry keeps rushing new technology, new products to market. They're struggling to meet the demands and anticipate the next killer solution.

New masters of the universe

Sure some of the stuff is pirated but not as much as the RIAA and MPAA would like you to believe. People who have real jobs are using the new tools to express themselves and make their content available to the world in the hopes of acceptance, a following. Tons of music from indies is available on the web from sites like artistserver.com and others.

EMI and Universal have realized that the best way to sell their content is to set it free and eliminate DRM (digital rights management) restrictions. Despite the fact that most of the content we create, copy, store and share is personal; Tellywood struggles to justify Zarkov's and their position, "No, it's no mistake... IT'S AN ATTACK! I've been right all these years!"

Ordinary folks who have all of that content agree with Flash... "This Ming is a psycho!" The new cameras and camcorders enable people to capture great video. Software from Corel, Pinnacle, Adobe and others make it almost a snap to produce theater quality movies.

MyPlace, YouTube and other sites make it easy for people to display their rich content no matter how stupid it is. So we grab the content so we can have it just in case we want to listen/watch it. To paraphrase Ming, it is better to have it at your side than scattered into...atoms. We're happy just to have the content on our system's hard drive or to have a few hundred CDs and DVDs on the shelf.

Not teens, tweens or our kids. They want it on their smartphones...on their PMPs...on their iPods (let's face it Steve's little wonder is the defacto standard).

Hot flash

It's no wonder the semiconductor storage (generically called flash memory) industry is so hot...mobile content needs to be stored. For most folks it is simply a chip in their portable device that stores content. Or it's a 1, 2, 4 or 8GB Store 'n Go unit they stuff in their pocket.

Not so for Samsung, Toshiba, SanDisk, Intel, Verbatim and others. For them it is a high volume (and high investment) business that has a vast amount of technology that has its own Moore's Law of capacity expansion/price reductions.

Look deep into almost any device or product today and you'll find a variety of memory types being used for custom and general purpose storage.

In addition to the memory devices buried inside of the manufacturers' products consumers can't get enough of the rugged, portable storage - memory cards, flash drives, SD, Memory Sticks, CF, MMC and other cute names/acronyms. U.S. consumers will purchase an estimated $4.5 billion plus worth of the devices.

It may not surprise you that a lot of people use these expensive chips for permanent storage because...well let's just say because.

The answer to your question - before you ask - is that they have a data life equivalent to quality CD/DVD media...50+ years. This sounds great for the chip manufacturers but production investments are tremendous ...Toshiba is investing close to $15 billion just to keep up with the technology advances. And...profit margins are razor thin.

That's great news for consumers but sure has to suck for manufacturers who have to second guess what demand will be two-three years from now!

Since semi memory has a lot of desirable features like I/O speed and low power consumption the chip manufacturers see absolutely no reason why they shouldn't replace hard drives.

To them and Klytus, it is obvious... "Most effective, Your Majesty. Will you destroy this Earth?"

Will Flash replace hard drives?

Manufacturers see semi memory...everywhere. The economics work in their favor in lower capacities - up to 10GB - and by 2010 it should be more than price competitive up to 64+GB.

Thanks to people's impatience in accessing their information and bloated stuff like Vista flash is being designed into HDs to buffer data. Seagate, the king of HDs, sees a place for flash in their traditional spinning disk market so they have begun their own programs.

In the meantime the folks at SanDisk, Toshiba and others want to completely replace the HD at least in your notebook and in a number of enterprise applications.

Works great where factors like battery life, IOPS (I/O operations per second) and space or prime considerations. Despite the logic of 32 - 64GB being sufficient for their notebooks, people still want more storage space for their stuff. Ever meet someone who went into a store to ask for a smaller HD?

Our kid had to have 160GB for his multimedia notebook so he could store all of his music, his photos, his videos/TV shows and all of the stuff he downloaded from everywhere. That's in addition to the flash drives he carries...and loses.

Flash makes us insecure

The biggest problem/challenge for corporate IT today is the fact that everyone uses these small storage devices. Two years ago - before they became so ubiquitous - more than 100,000 of these devices were found in Chicago cabs.

Today it's worse. Because people are beginning to use these memory devices as virtual computers, companies like Migo and others are delivering software that puts your personal operating environment and key data on 1-4GB drives.

Use the device on anyone's system, remove it and leave no trace of your activity behind. Of course that doesn't protect your content when you lose the little sucker so the industry is developing a whole new breed of data protection including cryptography, passwords and certificate protocols.

Semi memory manufacturers are sure they have the answers for you - all of the answers.

We hear them cheering like the robot... "Long live Flash! You've saved your Earth. Have a nice day."

Only problem is content doesn't die.

We create it.

We capture it.

We replicate it.

We store it again and again.

In fact, according to IDC this year we have more stuff than we have storage. Not really certain how that is possible unless there are petabytes of content sitting in the cloud waiting for someone to sell/buy more capacity but...

There's a demand - a huge demand - and need for more semi storage out there and it is only going to grow.

Klytus may have said - "No one - but no one - dies in the Palace without a command from the Emperor" - but content doesn't die.

It simply gets copied...again and again.

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