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
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."
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
- Toshiba - showed a
prototype 0.85" hard drive in
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."
Since those early pioneering
days in the miniature storage drive market the competition has got much
- 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.
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.
2007 - Joe
Koyanagi (who was at that time US Sales Manager at
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.
1" SSD directory
lists 30 manufacturers of SSDs, DOMs & HDDs which are 1.0"
approx and under.