Line blurs between flash, hard drives

/ Source: The Associated Press

The distinction between flash memory and hard disk drives are fading rapidly as the two storage mediums encroach one another's territory — including marked advances announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show Monday.

Makers of flash memory — known for its ruggedness, compact size and power efficiency — are introducing new, higher-capacity "solid state drives" for computers this week.

Meanwhile, makers of hard drives — known more for monster capacity than portability — are touting new models about the size of a CompactFlash memory card.

Flash drives have typically been used in portable gadgets like media players, cell phones and digital cameras.

Samsung Electronics Co. showed off a slim, solid-state drive designed for laptops and desktops that has a capacity of 128 gigabytes. It'll be one of the beefiest — if not the beefiest — model when it becomes available the first half of this year.

And flash-memory maker SanDisk Corp. unveiled a laptop drive with a 72 GB capacity that weighs about 30 percent less than a hard drive of the same dimensions.

Neither company disclosed prices. But the drives are being targeted at high-end ultra-lightweight computers because since solid state drives are still relatively novel and expensive.

The developments sparked speculation Monday among bloggers that Apple Inc. might announce a new, smaller notebook using Samsung's solid-state drive at next week's Macworld trade show in San Francisco.

Samsung also unveiled 30 GB and 40 GB versions of a 1.3-inch hard disk that fits in a CompactFlash drive. That's a record-breaking capacity for a storage component that size, Samsung said.