Sometimes, I wonder what Apple CEO Steve Jobs would be without the flash memory. I remembered that last week when I met Sanjay Mehrotra, the IIT, Delhi- educated CEO of SanDisk Corp, the world leader in flash memory cards —which go into everything from digital cameras and mobile handsets to tablet PCs and music players. Three years ago he had forecast that by 2011, a tiny flash card could carry 128 GB of memory.
In January this year, SanDisk launched that card — big enough to comfortably hold 30 Bollywood movies.
Apple's music player iPod, tablet computer iPad and its latest MacBook Air —which is less than 5 millimetres thin — would not be possible without the flash memory.
We know flash enables the cool factor, but what made me sit up during my meeting was how, using internal controllers, the flash memory is growing up to be intelligent— going well beyond storage.
This is enabling not just convenience but new business models for premium content.
"The design level hooks are built into the cards so that solutions can be offered to multitudes of customers," Mehrotra explains.
For instance, Cricket Wireless in the US offers in partnership with SanDisk a memory card that stores loads of content that can be accessed as long as you pay $55 a month—and it prevents unofficial copying. This is possible because the flash card in the device is securely linked to the network.
What this also means is higher network efficiency because content (movies, games, music- whatever) can be downloaded on high-memory devices (say in your cable TV set-top boxes) to help customers pay for content and play it when it suits them.
I expect in the not-too-distant future content offered with secure downloads – to those who pay! In the world of 3G and 4G, this can offer game-changing possibilities.