Hard drives are living on borrowed time and will be replaced with solid-state Flash memory, according to Samsung's semi-conductor CEO Dr Chang Gyu Hwang.

Hwang's company has just launched a 16Gb NAND Flash chip using 50nm technology, something he used to make his prediction.

"NAND flash technology development continues to double density growth on an average of every 12 months," Hwang stated. Which means his 16Gb Flash chips will move up from mobile devices, like PDAs and MP3 players to laptop hard drives.

We will, he claimed, see laptop memory cards with 32GB of memory, based on nineteen 16Gb flash chips. These will appear late in 2006 or in 2007, based on mass production of the new Samsung chips in the second part of 2006. Using a 50nm process means that the flash memory uses just 0.00625 square microns per bit, 25 percent down on the previous 60nm process.

By this time next year, if Samsung is right, we will be seeing a 32Gb NAND chip, meaning 64GB memory cards. A year later there will be 128GB memory cards. At this point NAND flash could cross over into desktop PCS.

Although flash memory storage on notebooks will not fail from the same kind of mechanical shocks that would kill a notebook hard drive, the flash chips do have a finite life in read/write cycle terms. They won't last for ever.

And of course there is the matter of memory card cost and power consumption.