Toshiba hopes to quadruple the capacity of its solid-state drives in the foreseeable future while cutting their production costs, the company's semiconductor chief Shozo Saito has told an audience at an IDEMA seminar in Japan. The electronics manufacturer isn't set to ship its 128GB drive in computers until June but says process refinements will let it store up to four data bits per memory cell and shrink the chipmaking process to 30 nanometers by the end of 2009, allowing the company to offer a 512GB drive in that timeframe.
By fitting more data into a given space, Toshiba will also reduce the cost of making flash memory itself, Saito observes. The Japanese company estimates that it can reduce the price of making SSDs by as much as 40 to 50 percent every year, resulting in far less expensive drives at greater storage levels. While a 1.8-inch SSD costs 2.9 times as much as its rotating hard disk equivalent, a reliable price drop could reduce the cost to a comparatively reasonable 40 percent premium within the near future. When this will occur is uncertain.
Part of the challenge behind reductions will be to improve the longevity of multi-bit technology, often known as multi-level cell (MLC). Most currently support too few rewrites for each cell before they become unwritable and are therefore impractical for computers; the number of writes should increase dramatically within five years to where they become feasible for most users.
Toshiba's plans intensify competition in flash-based computer drives, which are expected to eventually take over from hard drives in at least some computer types in the next few years. A number of companies investing in SSDs plan to reach 256GB in notebook-sized flash drives by the end of 2008 and expect costs to decrease enough that more computers can use the technology at the same time.