Q&A: Why Apple's co-founder is hot on solid state storage

Steve Wozniak joins a storage start-up and sees similarities to his early Apple days

How will the maturing of the flash memory market affect the DRAM market? Do you think flash memory could replace DRAM as a type of cache in the future?

SW: Indirectly. When ... you have this high speed, local, very cost effective mass storage, all of a sudden you don't need this extra level of cache to speed it up because it's already fast enough to keep your processor at 100 per cent efficiency.

Apple, like many personal computer manufacturers, has been slow to adopt flash in the majority of its desktops and laptops - at least not as something that doesn't come at a significant premium. How long before these companies start really warming up to flash and offering it at a reasonable price?

SW: I do remember paying a premium for it, but it was like the first computer I'd ever seen that offered flash from the factory as an option. That was the MacBook Air. So of course I ordered my Air with the 64GB flash option.

But now 64GB is the cross-over point ... where it's equally expensive to have spinning disk or flash. So if your needs are met by 64GB, that's your decision today. Now, I look at my MacBook Pro, and I have a 256GB flash drive built in, and, yes, it cost me an extra $US800. It gives me a little slicker performance but it's not a killer that everyone needs. I can't say Apple has held back that much. The new technology of the future, Apple's usually the earlier ones to jump on in recognizing what the winners are going to be. Things like USB, FireWire and a number of other such products over time.

When do you see the market for solid state really catching fire?

SW: It's on fire now. I look back to the personal computer revolution, and we weren't selling many personal computers, but just as we were starting Apple, the first wave of analysts paying attention to this and saying it was going to be a multibillion-dollar market was so similar with what's happening with Fusion-io. Almost anywhere I go, I talk to anyone with a large company and when I tell them about our product and what it does, they want to get their IT people on it right away. It takes a long time before that turns into huge sales, but what other start-up company do you know that has 1,000 customers in a year?

I've been associated with an awful lot of start-ups, my own and others, and I've never seen one growing this fast and successfully since Apple.

If I didn't think it was very similar, I wouldn't be here. We're bringing the revolution to the world. We're looking at all the competition jumping into the same market. It's an exciting time in life again.

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Tags solid-state drivesAppleFusion-ioSteve Wozniak

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Lucas Mearian

Computerworld (US)

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