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Flash Memories Trend
Further discussion of the topic originated here:
The prices have come down significantly -- I remember spending $2 a Meg for SmartMedia, a particular form-factor for flash that was popular for a little while. About a year later it was $1.00 per, now I have no idea because I haven't needed to buy any for a while. There seems to be a minimum cost figure below which companies won't supply old parts -- $10 per card is too cheap and the manufacturers decide to force everyone to buy the next step up. It is just a packaging limitation where the non-memory part makes up a huge part of the cost.
BTW: when I was trying to move all my stuff from CDs to MP3s I found that around 4x compression created no discernible artifacts, beyond that there was an odd quality to human voice. I could only get four CDs worth of MP3 music onto a CD-ROM, so given a 640Meg device I can't get much more than four hours worth of music onto it then. Unless your workouts stretch past four hours though it's not that big a deal.
Flash memory fabrication is more involved than RAM. Yield on higer density offerings is a tougher challenge as with any silicon.
The price reflects current manufacturing costs more than market demand. Until the technology is controlled enough and the high quality equipment needed in its fabrication come down enough for many to get in on the game ... we hungry consumers will just have to wait patiently
In a recent run to Fry's Electronics (remember that place Hoang?) I noticed gigabyte MP3 players ran around $150 or so. This was from Creative Labs I think and might have been on sale, but the order of magnitude is more telling: at $1 per Meg that's a thousand dollars. Prices really have come down significantly and most people are only noticing "high prices" because their demands are higher where the iPod sets a very high bar at $300 for 30 Gig.
Actually like I mentioned in my post.... I believe the consumer price point ("the sweet spot") is finally here after 5 years. It is possible to obtain 1G for under $100. Of course additional packaging of the product --- as an MP3 player, as a USB disk, etc.... will allow it to command a price premium. Smart companies will learn to do this: Apple... wink, wink.... Sony... wink, wink for digital cameras.
Cisco as well as other companies (I'm sure) has been using FLASH to distribute software. CatOS can be squeezed to under 20Megs.... IOS has grown to almost 60Megs. Depending on the supervisors used, form-factors are either PCMCIA or CompactFlash. Again, only Cisco approved and marked up xxx percent.
Just a couple of examples of how marketting can play with the price-points of a product.
I'm sort of partial to the little USB flash drives that are out there, guess I always shop for general solutions over being tied to one use. Just a matter of time I think before some memory company figures out they could work like HP's printers versus cartridges market. They can sell more flash drive units by making memory-less "MP3 player" units and having consumers buy and plug in those drives rather than bundle them. You'll always have the pinky-out-drinking-lattes crowd that buys iPods for the elite factor, but if Sandisk gets into this market I think the iPod will go the way of the Mac.
I guess the analogy only goes so far though: there are some technical merits claimed by HP for their inkjet cartridges, no such thing for flash drives. Maybe it's more like traditional photographic film where some companies make film, some make cameras and film, some make just cameras. However in this case as a consumer I still have the option of buying the MP3 player and shopping for memory separately.