Hard drives are out and flash is in when it comes to the computers of the future, with the current boom in solid-state memory only just beginning, according to the world's largest maker of flash memory. 'Flash will totally replace hard-disk drives in notebook PCs in a few years,' said Hwang Chang-gyu, chief executive and president of Samsung's chip business. Earlier this month, Samsung announced a solid-state nand flash hard disk with a 16-gigabyte capacity that draws 5 per cent of the power of a standard hard disk and is half the weight. The product is being aimed at notebooks and tablet PCs. As the head of the world's largest flash memory maker, and the world's second-largest chip company overall, Mr Hwang would be expected to talk up business. The company's expanding chip business has been helped by its early decision to develop nand flash, instead of the rival NOR flash technology. Nand is considered a superior technology for storage in devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players. Samsung commands 54 per cent of the nand market, and 27 per cent of the overall flash memory market. 'Nand demand is really stronger than our expectations ... this year we thought it would double at around 120 per cent bit growth, but surprisingly it could turn out to be 170 per cent bit growth,' said Chu Woo-sik, senior vice-president of investor relations. He predicted that while bit growth would be strong, nand flash prices would fall about 40 per cent this year. For the next few years, growth will be fuelled by MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile-phones. Samsung's digital products business is expecting a three-fold growth in its sales of digital music players to 5 million units this year, about 10 per cent of the market. One reason for the renewed demand is the increased density of its chips, which are now possible at 16GB although 75 per cent of the company's flash was 2GB in the first quarter. Samsung claims it is beating Moore's Law by doubling memory density every year, compared with the doubling of transistor density every 18 months predicted by the law. Mr Hwang said a 100GB nand flash chip would be available within a few years. This situation translates into a snowball effect, where higher-density memories drive MP3 demand, and MP3 sales drive flash memory sales. Like the CPU speed wars which saw AMD and Intel racing to produce ever-faster chips with decreasing interest from consumers, expanding flash density may reach a peak of interest in years to come.