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Flash storage in post-PC devices advances

Stephen Lawson | Dec. 22, 2010
Size, power consumption and durability helped to make tablets and smartphones possible

The interfaces between devices and flash storage are also accelerating, according to Samsung. The company's products recently advanced form SDR (single data rate) interfaces, which could execute transfers at 40M bps (bits per second), to DDR (double data rate), at up to 133M bps, Weinger said. The next step will be to 400M bps, allowing users to get to their data even faster.

Successive generations of chips are also more power-efficient. Samsung expects the voltage of its flash to move from 3.3 volts to 1.8 volts, giving system manufacturers a tool to extend the battery life of their devices, Weinger said.

All these factors should translate into tablets, smartphones, netbooks and other devices that are more appealing and less expensive, or that offer more for the same price. But this doesn't necessarily mean post-PC devices will be better able to displace laptops, analysts said. For one thing, some laptops already come with SSDs. And while SSDs improve, HDDs will also offer more capacity for less money.

"It's a moving target. Hard drives aren't just sitting around," Baltazar said.

However, the way users store data is shifting from keeping it all on one PC to a more distributed approach, analysts said. They may keep a large amount on a central platform such as a home or corporate server, a small amount on a highly portable device with flash, and an increasing amount in the cloud, said analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"If you have lots and lots of very cheap storage available that's online ... then the need to carry it around is a lot less," Kay said. Given the other alternatives, anything over 100GB of storage is probably adequate for the device the user always carries around, Kay said.

So between stationary storage capacity and cloud storage, there may be an opportunity for various devices with smaller amounts of flash storage, rather than a large HDD, to become the mobile user's companion, analysts said.

But whether users will migrate to post-PC devices, which generally lack complete file systems and some other features, will depend at least as much on other factors, they said.

 

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