Toshiba and (we think) its partner WD have just unveiled the next generation of rapidly evolving flash memory technology. Its 96-layer NAND tech will arrive in 2018 in 3-bit, 32GB (256 gigabit) chip sizes. That will allow for SSDs and other flash products with 40 percent more storage than 64-layer NAND (which WD and Toshiba started manufacturing last month), reducing consumer prices. Furthermore, WD says that the tech is capable of 64GB all the way up to one terabit (125GB) per chip using 4-bit-per-cell technology.
To give you an idea how fast things change in flash land, Intel has started selling its SSD 545 line that uses 64-layer 3D NAND priced at $180 for 512GB. Other companies, including Toshiba and WD, will soon launch their own 64-layer models, starting a new downward price spiral. Once 96-layer SSDs come on the market, prices will fall even more.
WD and Toshiba have a partnership that seems to be deteriorating very rapidly, thanks to Toshiba's contentious upcoming sale of its NAND division. Both companies issued press releases on the new tech, but while WD said that it partnered with Toshiba on the tech, Toshiba didn't mention WD at all in its own release.
It could be unrelated, but Toshiba just sued Western Digital for $1 billion, saying that it's holding back a potential sale of its chip division. That situation is very messy, because WD and Toshiba have a partnership that WD says gives it first right of refusal. However, other bidders, including Foxconn (possibly backed by Apple), SK Hynix and Broadcomm, have reportedly offered to pay a lot more for Toshiba than WD. Toshiba, meanwhile, says that a sale to another company would not violate its agreement with WD, according to Bloomberg.
Either way, Toshiba will start sampling its new 96-layer tech later this year, and begin manufacturing in three of its Japanese fab plants starting in 2018.