Welcome to the stick era

One point driven home by my recent trip to CompuTex in Taiwan is the next few years will go down as the stick era.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

One point driven home by my recent trip to CompuTex in Taiwan is the next few years will go down as the stick era.

(Shown is a display from CompuTex showing stick memories designed to look like sushi, and priced similarly.)

Chip-based memory sticks, which you plug into a USB port, are getting super-cheap, and due to get cheaper. I went with a 32 Gigabyte Corsair, but versions with twice that memory are already less than $150.

Memory makers are anxious to find new markets for their product. Cheap chip memory will mean higher-capacity iPod Nanos, phones with many gigabytes of storage, and netbooks that store as much as desktops did just a few years ago.

I remember being amazed a year ago when I went to a trade show and received press releases on 128 Mbyte stick memories. Now you can do that with multi-gigabit sticks.

Chips also store gigabytes of data on Secure Digital Cards (SDCs). I had a 2 Gigabyte model in the Canon camera I brought to China.

While in Taiwan I saw SDCs coming to market this Christmas with up to 16 GBytes, at very low cost. Instant upgrade, and no more worries about using your PowerShot as a video unit. The same will be true with your next phone.

To maintain prices and margins, stick makers at CompuTex looked desperate. I saw sticks with leather jackets, sticks you could brand yourself, sticks offered as fashion statements. (Like the sushi sticks above.)

You can also expect to see sticks with software -- security software or application software. I recently suggested shipping sticks with a full Linux stack.

It's also important to consider the implications of cheap, multi-gigabyte stick memory on our computing environment.

It has been a decade now since manufacturers stopped offering floppy disks, which held about 1 Mbyte. For a while this improved security, since online traffic could be audited.

Now you can pull out gigabytes from any PC with a USB stick in just the time it takes to read this sentence. Sticks are easy to hide, and USB ports are difficult for IT managers to eliminate, since they're a primary means by which devices, not just memory, are linked to PCs today.

That's a scary implication. Here is a less scary one.

Before leaving for China I put many important applications on the Corsair stick, including my passwords and my picture editing software. During my trip I moved data repeatedly from the 2 GByte SRAM on my Canon camera to the stick -- the netbook had drives for both so it took just a few minutes.

I just checked the Corsair and I have used just 5% of its storage capacity.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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