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Apple places unusual flash memory order

post #1 of 129
Thread Starter 
A recent mass order for flash memory chips from Apple is raising more questions than answers given the chips in question are much lower in density than the electronics maker typically chooses for its handheld multi-touch products.

Citing sources at downstream suppliers, DigiTimes says Apple has asked for delivery of 100 million 8Gb NAND flash chips sometime later this year, with the bulk of that order expected to come from Samsung. The Cupertino-based company's other key flash memory suppliers -- Toshiba, Hynix, Intel and Micron -- may also factor into the deal.

The order is suspicious, however, given the low density of the chips on order. Contrary to some inaccuracies being reported around the Web, the parts in question are 8 gigabit chips, representing 1 gigabyte of storage each, not 8 gigabytes of storage each.

While this order could theoretically be used to facilitate the production of 6.25 million 16GB iPhones or 12.5 million 8GB iPhones, Apple has historically purchased higher density chips for its handheld offerings due to space constraints. For instance, its believed that the current 8GB iPhone 3G employs a single 64Gb high-density NAND flash chip, while the 16GB version uses a 128Gb chip.

Similarly, Apple is also thought to be using a single high-density 32Gb NAND chip in its most recent 4GB iPod shuffle, though this hasn't been confirmed with any degree of certainty. A tear-down analysis of the player last month found only a single chip inside -- a multi-layered stack containing the CPU, RAM, and flash memory -- making a face value determination inconclusive. (Update: iFixIt confirmed for us that it is indeed a high-density 32Gb part in the shuffle).

It's also unclear from the report whether the 8Gb NAND parts are finalized chip packages, or bare memory chips that will later be stacked to form a higher density package. Assuming the chips are complete chip packages, the order may signal plans for a new low cost, low storage handheld product in the near future. Another alternative explanation could be that the parts aren't destined for an iPod or iPhone at all.

Their inclusion in future Macs is yet another remote possibility, though rumors of Apple adopting small flash chips for an implementation of Intel's Robson technology -- which promised faster startup, application launching, and battery life by caching key pieces of code in the solid-state memory parts -- fizzled some years ago. Apple now offers customers the option of configuring a handful of Macs with much larger flash drives, doing away with the need for a traditional hard disk drive entirely.

Regardless of Apple's intentions for the chips, DigiTimes claims the order is likely to cause a supply shortage for the broader market, especially with Nokia and Sony also reported to be building up NAND flash inventories for their own products.
post #2 of 129
ON-board flash for Macbooks and iMacs etc?

Or is this for the new MacTouch?
post #3 of 129
These are for laptops. I bet there's something in the works with flash memory that contains the boot drive for quicker and more energy efficient power-on, similar to what they recently did in the new Xserve.

post #4 of 129
Tablets have far more room than an iPhone/Touch for the inclusion of flash memory... Oops, I've said too much already...



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post #5 of 129
Sounds like a flash boot or deep sleep instant on in laptops to me, though I wonder if this has anything to do with the iChat answerphone rumour - your machine would be in sleep but wakes up just enough with no HD just to replay your outgoing and store the incoming...


Just a thought.
post #6 of 129
Robson technology is useless.

If you want faster bootup then simply replace your HDD boot drive with a SSD.


These could be used in anything. They could be used in the nextgen AppleTV to buffer content. 1GB of NAND is more than enough to buffer a HD movie.

They could be used in a storage device to cache frequently used data.
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post #7 of 129
So maybe Apple is just buying them up cause a shortage for everyone else...

...is that illegal?
post #8 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baron Munchausen View Post

Sounds like a flash boot or deep sleep instant on in laptops to me, though I wonder if this has anything to do with the iChat answerphone rumour - your machine would be in sleep but wakes up just enough with no HD just to replay your outgoing and store the incoming...


Just a thought.

Would be just a tad too convenient tie in with the previous rumor now wouldn't it? Almost as if they meant for us to make that connection....

(Would be alright though)
post #9 of 129
An old Duke and Duke trick - corner the market.
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post #10 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by YodaMac View Post

So maybe Apple is just buying them up cause a shortage for everyone else...

...is that illegal?

That was my thought, too... "Let's buy as much of the cheapest-per-chip flash products out there so we can to tie up the production lines for everyone else"...
post #11 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by YodaMac View Post

So maybe Apple is just buying them up cause a shortage for everyone else...

...is that illegal?

No it's stupid. Though I don't think that's what's happening. The movement is with higher density chips. Apple's probably fetching these for a song.
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post #12 of 129
It must be for the iPhone nano
post #13 of 129
1) I am not a fan of using the term density to describe capacity without signifying that these 1GB chips are the same relative size, and therefore actually are lower density circuits, than NAND of higher capacity with the same relative dimensions.

2) Would Apple really need 100M units if they were for Macs? It seems very excessive. If it's used for faster hibernation and for virtual memory wouldn't they have to use at least 4GB on average to make it work with most Macs moving forward?

3) If these are are actually lower-density NAND they may be very fast NAND and may actually support what some are saying about using for Macs. But personally I think we are missing something from the story.
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post #14 of 129
The first story I read said "8 GB". 8 Gb (ie. 1 GB) does indeed make this a mystery.
post #15 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

An old Duke and Duke trick - corner the market.

Ha ha! Nice.


I'd guess, on-board flash in Macs... for the OS only, with applications and user data on a separate internal drive. Or used for virtual memory. Or both OS and VM. Or could be used to store the OS for future iPhones, other mobile devices. So they don't take up user space. Or maybe Apple is planning on embedding OS X in all their devices; iPods, iPhones, Airports, AppleTVs, Macs, etc.

Or, or, or...


Maybe Apple is planning on embedding OS X into future Macs as they did with the Classic OS, to prevent others from making Hackintoshes and selling them?
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post #16 of 129
Probably for some unnamed portable device.

The 1GB of NAND will be used in a low power mode.

Or maybe Apple gets crafty and RAIDS four of them for
data protection
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post #17 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

. Or maybe Apple is planning on embedding OS X in all their devices; iPods, iPhones, Airports, AppleTVs, Macs, etc.

Or, or, or...

This has already happened

(except the Airport, to the best of my knowledge)
post #18 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by xpc View Post

It must be for the iPhone nano

Strangely, I think that was insightful. You could be right, as easy as you could be wrong.
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post #19 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

No it's stupid. Though I don't think that's what's happening. The movement is with higher density chips. Apple's probably fetching these for a song.

Couldn't this be the reason though?

I haven't been able to find out the physical dimensions of 8 of these chips, but assuming they can be shoehorned into a current iPhone body, these would make excellent sense for the "third world" iPhone (8GB and no Wi-Fi) that's being floated as a possible product.

This would be an excellent way to get the price down so it can be offered by cell companies almost as a give-away.
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post #20 of 129
I know! They are for the iPod inviso.
post #21 of 129
Hmmm WEIRD
post #22 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

Couldn't this be the reason though?

I haven't been able to find out the physical dimensions of 8 of these chips, but assuming they can be shoehorned into a current iPhone body, these would make excellent sense for the "third world" iPhone (8GB and no Wi-Fi) that's being floated as a possible product.

This would be an excellent way to get the price down so it can be offered by cell companies almost as a give-away.

Could dovetail with reports about cheaper monthly services. I hear iPhones are really expensive and luxury toys in parts of India. I imagine that's the case in many countries. Hell the data package is getting expensive here in good ole 'merica.
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post #23 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Or maybe Apple gets crafty and RAIDS four of them for
data protection

I would say that is unlikely since your PC's iTunes account is the backup for your iDevice.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JustBenThanks View Post

This has already happened

(except the Airport, to the best of my knowledge)

Airport, Time Capsule, nor any of the the iPods sans iPod Touch are using OS X.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Strangely, I think that was insightful. You could be right, as easy as you could be wrong.

I think such a low amount would not be feasible for such a device. Even if it didn't use iPhone OS X so it didn't use 700MB just for the OS, I think that a capacity of 1/4 that of the new Shuffle would be unreasonable for any iPod, especially one that is a phone, too.
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post #24 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by xpc View Post

It must be for the iPhone nano

I think so too.
post #25 of 129
Doesn't Apple already have a reserve of flash memory chips they could use to build iphones from?

This recent order could just be to top off the stock they have now. Or perhaps they will be building these into other products. Or, like the original post suggested, they are not complete packages and can be layereed to others for higher density packages.

......is that correct?
post #26 of 129
It's for the next release of the OS, Snow Leopard. They are Shipping it on the Cheap NAND.

Now you know.
post #27 of 129
They are building a 100 petabyte solid state drive for the theater on SJ's new yacht.
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post #28 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by aga View Post

It's for the next release of the OS, Snow Leopard. They are Shipping it on the Cheap NAND.

Now you know.

I think that is the best guess I've read yet and shipping with very cheap NAND is more important than making the USB flash drive super small. burning a CD is certainly cheaper, but if you exclude the cost of the optical drive you are ahead.

However, in all fairness I have been stating for awhile now that Apple wants to drop the internal optical drive from their notebook line and they would have to include external drives (which increase the cost of the machine). Plus, using a USB Flash drive will be considerably faster to complete an install. I can do an install of OS X from an external USB HDD in about 10 minutes from start to finish.

Plus, 12.5M copies of Mac OS X seems about right for Snow Leopard sales in the first quarter. Anyone have any stats on Leopard 1st quarter sales?
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post #29 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Robson technology is useless.

If you want faster bootup then simply replace your HDD boot drive with a SSD.

This could be what Apple is doing -- Put the boot parts of OS X (kernel, bootloader, etc) on a flash drive -- ala the current XServe.


Quote:
These could be used in anything. They could be used in the nextgen AppleTV to buffer content. 1GB of NAND is more than enough to buffer a HD movie.

They could be used in a storage device to cache frequently used data.

Using Flash (with its limited # of viable read/write cycles) for a cache is not likely, though sticking the limited AppleTV OS in there is definitely possible.

Re: buffering/caching, putting enough RAM in the AppleTV to buffer to RAM (or buffering to the hard disk) makes more sense, and spinning platters offer more than enough transfer bandwidth for watching movies at a much more competitive price point IMHO...
post #30 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by DestructoTex View Post

These are for laptops. I bet there's something in the works with flash memory that contains the boot drive for quicker and more energy efficient power-on, similar to what they recently did in the new Xserve.


I think so too. I could see Apple updating its entire line of laptops and desktops with at least a small amount of solid state memory in each model and possibly beginning a gradual phaseout of hard drives altogether.
post #31 of 129
The USB drive theory works best in my book, but most cheap USB drives only have a single chip, and I don't think Snow Leopard would fit in 1GB. Was Leopard a CD or DVD?
post #32 of 129
As I understand it, Samsung and others sell NAND primarily in 8Gb "chips" which are then stacked to form the high density slabs found in the iPhone and other handheld devices. Here's a quote from a PR back in 2006 which is still relevent in terms of process, though densities have obviously increased:

Quote:
Samsung plans to further utilize its 8-Gb NAND flash memory chip in Samsung’s high-density MLC NAND, called moviNAND, to produce a 2GB-level NAND market solution. The recently introduced moviNAND combines NAND flash memory and a NAND controller and can be embedded in mobile handsets to accommodate the high data storage requirements that accompany the increasing number of multimedia features on mobile phones.

http://www.samsung.com/us/business/s...do?news_id=753

The purchase volume also jibes with an Apple-sized product launch for a single high-capacity device or a few lower capacity devices. So I think the assumption that the 1GB (i.e, 8Gb) chips are "complete chip packages" is false.
post #33 of 129
after a world wide flash memory shortage is announced by cnn s.j. will be shouting ( I'm the king of the world )
post #34 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

The USB drive theory works best in my book, but most cheap USB drives only have a single chip, and I don't think Snow Leopard would fit in 1GB. Was Leopard a CD or DVD?

DVD. In fact there are two DVDs. Apple would have to have an 8GB stick for Snow Leopard and another one for iLife. I don't think they could get it all down to a single 8GB chip, maybe 10 or 12GB for a specific machine model.

Though, they can pair those chips in 1GB increments and they would be pretty damn cheap. They don't have the same rules to follow as USB flash drives that are sold to be carried with your personal data so size wouldn't be an issue. Even speed isn't an issue as it would be considerably faster to use slow NAND than the fastest optical drive to install OS X.
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post #35 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

An old Duke and Duke trick - corner the market.

Best scene: Eddie Murphy turning to the camera after the Dukes explain what pork bellies are.

This news has me puzzled.
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post #36 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

No it's stupid. Though I don't think that's what's happening. The movement is with higher density chips. Apple's probably fetching these for a song.

Or possibly for actual songs. If Apple could get the hardware price point low enough, tiny USB flash drives would be a great way to distribute music, movies, TV episodes, software, etc., at places like Starbucks or for promotional use.
post #37 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Porchland View Post

Or possibly for actual songs. If Apple could get the hardware price point low enough, tiny USB flash drives would be a great way to distribute music, movies, TV episodes, software, etc., at places like Starbucks or for promotional use.

Even if the price was on par with other promotion types they've done (which I don't think is possible), wouldn't it still be better for them to push their iTunes Store and iTunes app through putting a special code?
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post #38 of 129
I've been thinking for a couple of years that Apple should do a non-convergence plain old digicam. Not everyone wants a crappy camera jammed into an ipod. This would open a whole new market for them, and they have the marketing department and the design team to succeed, especially with the ipod crowd.

Anyway, built-in 1GB chips are a good choice for a 5MP camera...
post #39 of 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Porchland View Post

Or possibly for actual songs. If Apple could get the hardware price point low enough, tiny USB flash drives would be a great way to distribute music, movies, TV episodes, software, etc., at places like Starbucks or for promotional use.

You would think Apple would move away from physical mediums to something more like, say the Internet?
post #40 of 129
I don't know what they're making or what it costs but I HAVE to have it! I'm already giving this product two thumbs up, it's far more sheek and elegant than anything the competitors have come out with and it's so easy to use, "it just works".
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