SanDisk is buying msystems. This will provide a US flash memory company with a Japanese fab partner in the form of Toshiba. As the joint statement issued by the companies states, "msystems is a leader in flash memory systems addressing mobile, portable and embedded markets and they have a strong team, significant IP and important OEM customers." This will now be coupled with "SanDisk's leading edge, low-cost fab capacity."

The market for business server, desktop and notebook flash memory is set to explode as flash memory caches are added to hard drives and also as an intervening storage stage between RAM and hard drives. The consumer use of flash memory in portable intelligent devices is also set to soar.

Once the flash cost per GB comes down enough then it's access speed advantage over hard drives could kill off the micro hard drive market - 'if' cost/GB comes down enough.

Harbingers of this potential future include the 4GB Samsung flash drive. Intel is also gearing up its flash memory product efforts.

A key development will be the production of flash fab plants that have the volume necessary to drive prices down. If that happens then those companies making a great living delivering database acceleration flash drives, like Texas Memory Systems, will face commoditisation and will need to enter the mass market for their products.

We onlookers can watch and hope, for flash memory will speed up systems, getting rid of lots of disk seek time waits.

The U3 idea may also receive a boost if the capacity of the thumb drives involved in it can go up to affordable multi-GB levels.