Flash memory closing in on hard drives?

Samsung says its 16-gigabit flash could let you take your entire music and personal video libraries with you on one small portable device.

Samsung has developed a new computer flash technology with so much capacity it could replace mini hard drives in some PCs, the company said Monday.

South Korean-based Samsung said its latest NAND memory device has 16-gigabit density. That's twice the density of the 8-gigabit NAND memory developed last year by Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi and others.

NAND flash memory is widely used in consumer devices like digital cameras, cell phones, USB flash drives and portable music players such as Apple Computer's new iPod Nano.

But Samsung's top brass are touting the new small-size, large-capacity device as an alternative to mini hard drives and even the hard drives used in laptops.

"This year, it appears clear that NAND will surpass NOR as the most popular flash memory," a representative with Samsung said. (NOR flash is highly reliable and used to store software code, but it's less dense than NAND.)

Analysts are predicting there will be $1.7 billion in revenues for NAND memory this year, while global NAND flash memory revenues are expected to reach $9.4 billion this year.

Samsung also said that, with multiple 16-gigabit flash memory chips, mobile and portable application designers could make memory cards with densities of up to 32 gigabytes.

That would be enough to store about 8,000 MP3 music files on a mobile device (about 680 hours worth of songs) or 20 movies (measuring 32 hours of high-resolution video footage), the company said.

In addition to the 16-gigabit NAND flash, Samsung unveiled a new 7.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor for high-end digital pictures and fusion semiconductors for next-generation smartphones and PDAs.

The company also introduced fusion semiconductors for making subscriber-identity module card applications.

Samsung plans to begin mass producing its 16-gigabit NAND flash in the second half of 2006. The 16-gigabit flash chips were made using the 50-nanometer manufacturing process.

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