Yesterday we reported that Apple was in the process of using its cash hoard to buy Anobit, an Israeli flash memory maker. But what’s so special about Anobit anyway, and why would Apple buy another maker of flash memory when they’ve already got deals in place with some of the world’s best flash manufacturers?
The answer: Anobit is making truly magical technology, and Apple wants that magic for itself.
In an excellent post over at ZDNet, Robin Harris explains that there are a lot of problems with flash memory that Anobit has made truly revolutionary controller chips to solve.
Anobit designs controller chips that make flash behave.
- Reliability. Deep understanding of flash behavior enables Anobit controllers to make flash much more reliable than standard flash specs suggest: they can make 2 level cell flash as reliable as raw single level cell flash is today – a 10x improvement.
- Performance. Flash can be written much faster than normal at the cost of more errors. But if you can fix the errors you can have fast flash.
- Endurance. Reducing errors and managing the flash writes means you can make flash endurance – how long it retains data – much longer.
- Power. Writing flash takes power – 128 flash die can’t be simultaneously written on a SATA power budget – and fast writing takes more power. Those trade-offs need management.
The end result? Far from being a ho-hum purchase, Anobit may be one of the most important acquisitions Apple will ever make.
If true, the Anobit acquisition is Apple’s biggest hardware bet ever. And it is a good bet.
Anobit gives Apple a powerful competitive weapon that can be used to both reduce costs and/or increase performance, while increasing product quality in terms of reliability and battery life. Sure, flash manufacturers have the money to invest in competitive technology, but they’ll sell it to all comers, leaving their customers with no differentiation.
And Anobit’s expertise – they’ve applied for over 60 patents – is readily transferable to whatever next-gen technology overtakes flash. This acquisition is a long-term bet on the importance of cheap, fast and reliable solid-state storage for keeping Apple on the leading edge.
It’s a fantastic read. If you’re interested at all in the way flash memory works, the hurdles left to overcome and how Apple purchasing Anobit could revolutionize every aspect of future iOS and Mac devices, make sure to read Harris’s post