Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. said it would start making next year a new flash memory chip capable of doubling the data storage capacity of digital cameras, music players and other hot-selling portable devices.
Samsung, which controls nearly 60 percent of the world's NAND flash memory market, said on Monday the new chip should entrench its dominance in a market enjoying strong growth.
Analysts said the planned launch in late 2006 of the 16-gigabit chip, which had been broadly anticipated by 2007, should also accelerate the use of NAND flash memory chips in laptops replacing hard drives.
The firm has doubled NAND flash memory capacity yearly since introducing a 256-megabit device in 1999, Samsung said.
Asked by reporters to comment on the battle with its Japanese rival, Toshiba Corp., which has a 28 percent share of the world NAND flash memory chip market, Hwang Chang-gyu, president and CEO of Samsung's semiconductor business, said the Korean firm was out in front.
"We are six months to one year ahead," he said, reports Washington Post.
According to Reuters, South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and U.S.-based Micron Technology Inc. also make flash chips.
The NAND flash memory market has been valued at $10.1 billion this year. Samsung is also the largest maker of computer memory chips.
Most NAND flash memory chips are built into the memory cards or USB memory products on which consumers store images, video and music.
NAND flash is used mainly for digital cameras, but the launch of Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod Shuffle and other flash-based MP3 music players have given the industry an additional boost.
Apple plans to buy as much as 40 percent of Samsung's flash memory output in the second half of this year for its new 4-gigabyte version of the iPod Mini, to be launched this holiday season, according to analysts at iSuppli Corp.
"Over the medium term, laptops will futurely use flash memories offering faster system booting and less weight," Samsung's Hwang said.
He added that playing music files on flash memory would offer better quality than through the existing hard disk drive.