The NY Times has a piece up covering the flash memory wars, with Samsung holding onto their 50.2 percent market share, and Toshiba and SanDisk fighting to increase theirs. Samsung, which licenses the NAND technology from inventor Toshiba, is sitting pretty with their huge iPod nano contract — though they're being investigated for the business practices behind the deal — and they're planning to spend $33 billion and hire 5,000 more engineers over the next seven years to keep their production and technology edge. Toshiba, which holds 22.8 percent of the market and shares its Yokkaichi production plant with SanDisk, is planning on a $2.5 billion expansion to quintuple the plant's output in their own attempt to meet exploding demand, and they also claim to be working on technology similar to Samsung's forthcoming chips. Currently only 70 to 80 percent of chip demand is being met, forcing some smaller Chinese MP3 player manufacturers to close up shop due to a lack of chips for their devices, while sales of chips, at $1.5 billion in 2000, hit $10.7 billion this year and will almost double in the next three years. Lucky for us, the prices continue to fall even as the demand rises, with chips set to drop 56 percent this coming year. Looks like a mad world, but it just means better and cheaper devices as we inch towards the holy grail: the flash laptop hard drive.
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