Gizmodo had an interesting article on the way in which small form-factor storage is beginning to impact the world of mobile telephony (TheFeature :: You Can Take It With You). The author raises a few interesting points, but I think that his final sentence sums it up best — “I can’t wait to have something like that in my phone. I couldn’t tell you what I’d use it for, but isn’t that the point?”
I agree with the basic premise of this article — small form-factor storage is making it much more economical and design-friendly to design mobile devices with large amounts of storage. However, I think that it is very easy to overstate what this development really means. I believe that small, low-cost storage (regardless of storage medium chosen) really has two important bi-products:
1. The mobile devices you own will be significantly more powerful – In about 3-4 years, we will all look back and chuckle to remember the days when flash media players shipped with 128 MB of onboard storage and when 1 GB SD/CF cards were considered expensive. The basic amount of storage that ships with consumer devices will continue to increase without an associated increase in price.
2. Mobile devices will give you a much better “bang for the buck” in terms of storage – One thing that I feel is not getting enough attention is the importance of interface technologies when it comes to mobile devices. As you increase the amount of data that users can store on these devices, the interfaces used to move data on/off of these devices becomes even more important. Have you ever tried to back up a large hard drive using a USB 1.x external drive? It leaves something to be desired. Likewise, I imagine that filling an 80 GB iPod using current generation Firewire would not be the world’s speediest experience. My prediction is that as much effort will be expended improving the transfer speed to/from mobile devices as will be spent increasing the density of storage on those devices.
I do not, however, believe, that storage will be the key to unlocking the market for the ever-elusive “uberdevice” that can take pictures, make phone calls, play games, connect to the Internet, and do all manner of things that get gadgeteers excited. Storage is only one, albeit important, piece of the puzzle. There are lots of UI and software issues that need to be solved before I will be convinced that there is one device that does everything well enough to get me to abdandon the multitude of devices that I currently carry.
Focusing on storage is a bit too myopic, but I do agree that small form-factor storage is an important development for the technology industry.