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Apple to spin down iPod HDDs in favour of Flash?

Pitching battery life over storage capacity

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Apple may be planning to drop hard drives from it iPod line-up, if claims made by a financial analyst are to be believed. The move would see the company canning its next iPod revision in favour of a Flash-based model, Prudential Equity Group analyst Jesse Tortora wrote this week.

Tortora's report, cited by AppleInsider, suggests the shift could take place by the end of the year.

Past reports have claimed Apple is working on at leas three possible iPod designs for 2007, one of which is said to be a 16GB video-capable model. At this stage, it's unclear whether that machine is something that might ship alongside a higher-capacity HDD-based iPod or instead of it. Much will depend on whether Apple can buy Flash cheaply enough to boost the capacity to rival at the very least today's 30GB iPod without pushing up the price.

SanDisk and Samsung have both touted 32GB solid-state drives of late. SanDisk's drive is in the 1.8in form-factor used by current iPod hard drives, so could be swapped in to replace the magnetic media. The snag is the cost: around $600. Even allowing for volume-purchase discounts, it's hard to see such a drive costing Apple a whole lot less than that, and simply building in Flash chips wouldn't be much cheaper.

To make matter worse, Toshiba, for one, is already touting 100GB 1.8in drives, with higher capacities to follow. For a portable video player intended to hold a stack of movies, plenty of storage space is crucial.

That said, do consumers really require that much content? Apple's consistent offering of a 30GB iPod suggests it's found that that capacity is the sweet spot for buyers wanting to store all their music, plus some photos and movies. So a 30GB device that majored on battery life - a key benefit of Flash over HDD - rather than storage capacity might well prove popular.

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