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Introducing the Miniature Storage Drive Market

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - October 2009

The market for small form factor SSDs and HDDs (1.0" and smaller) has seen a lot of changes in suppliers, technology and applications in the past decade.

Once the exclusive preserve of the military, spooks and space scientists this market is now dominated by the needs of shoppers for consumer lifestyle and entertainment gadgets.

Influential pioneers in this market shift were 3 companies:- M-Systems, Toshiba and Cornice.
  • M-Systems - developed the market concept of the DiskOnChip.

    As early as 1995 - EDN magazine cited DiskOnChip® as - "1994's most innovative product for embedded systems."

    In 2001 M-Systems' DiskOnChip flash SSD offered 16MB capacity in a single 48-pin TSOP (Thin Small Outline Package). By 2006, when the company was acquired by SanDisk, the DiskOnChip capacity had grown to gigabytes. The primary application at the time was mobile phone handsets.
  • Toshiba - showed a prototype 0.85" hard drive in January 2004.

    With 4GB capacity it was the world's physically smallest hard drive at the time. When launching the new form factor Toshiba said "the 0.85" HDD is expected to boost the functionality of a new generation of products, including mobile phones, digital audio players, PDAs, digital still cameras, camcorders and external storage devices."
  • Unlike the other 2 companies above which drifted in from the military or notebook markets - Cornice was a startup whose sole reason for existence for the small form factor consumer storage market.

    Cornice aspired to become the leading supplier of hard disks to the phone market, and various other markets like mobile music players and video cameras.

    Cornice's 2GB Storage Element appeared in some products shown at CES in 2004.

    In 2004 I said "Cornice's Storage Element does for disk drives what the original RISC concept did for CISC CPUs. It's like a Reduced Instruction Set hard drive which cuts out the unneeded Complexity."

    The product turned out to be risky in the conventional sense for the investors who had put $81 million into the company. A combination of patent lawsuits and market developments in flash SSDs put paid to their ambitions within a few years of launching their first product.
Since those early pioneering days in the miniature storage drive market the competition has got much tougher.

This is a market where potential unit shipments read like telephone numbers. One good reason (as you already know by now) is the potential to put small storage drives into cell phones to store music, pictures and video. Then you can add in the markets for PDAs, music players and digital cameras. Plus satellite navigators in cars, games, toys. When you've got a potential market size measured in billions of units - it seems needless to overburden the calculations by adding in more specialized embedded industrial products, or medical instrumentation, security systems etc.

In 2007 - Joe Koyanagi (who was at that time US Sales Manager at Hagiwara Sys-Com) impressed on me the future importance of what he called the "1 inch" SSD form factor (a convenient phrase for very small form factor SSD chips and modules - none of which are actually 1 inch in size).

He said - "1 inch is the next 2.5 inch!" - And he predicted that a directory of 1 inch SSDs would soon be needed on StorageSearch.com. How right he was.

Today our 1" SSD directory lists 30 manufacturers of SSDs, DOMs & HDDs which are 1.0" approx and under.
. 1" and smaller storage drives
""He's probably just as scared of us"
said Megabyte, not very convincingly.
.
Microsemi PBGA - SATA and PATA SSDs - click for more info
32mm x 28mm PBGA SSDs
for aerospace apps
from Microsemi
.
SSD news
the SSD Buyers Guide
3 Easy Ways to Enter the SSD Market
SSD Bookmarks - from industry leaders
Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design
Can you believe the word "reliability" in a 2.5" SSD ad?
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SSD ad - click for more info
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Notes from SSD market history
The product shown below - from M-Systems
(no longer in business) - was the 1st "SSD chip" ad
featured on StorageSearch.com.

It ran here from April 2004 to February 2006.
DiskOnChip family from M-Systems
DiskOnChip® - flash solid state disks
upto 2G bytes from M-Systems
.

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