Seagate driveSeagate this year introduced a 750G disk that now sells for as little as $371.

In fact, Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart just did a post to the Book People list and credibly predicted that terabyte-level storage “will fall below $250 by the end of 2007…The combination of a new laptop with a terabyte will fall under $500.” Perhaps the day will even come when laptopmakers can routinely include Gutenberg-sized libraries of public domain classics on their disks at no charge.

Advil tablet-sized chip to store whole Net?

But even that is tame compared to news earlier this year from Freescale Semiconductor. Check out a July clip, from Kevin Maney at USA Today—ancient news to storage buffs but not to most others:

“Freescale introduced the first commercial memory chip based on a new technology called magnetic random access memory, or MRAM. It’s a big step toward putting unimaginable amounts of data on something smaller than an Advil tablet.

“Storage capacity is improving at a phenomenal 60% to 70% every year, and other amazing new technologies, such as holographic storage, will bring yet greater leaps in the next decade.”

Multimedia e-books

Now let’s look beyond the basics if memory grows as quickly as some hope. If transmission speeds keep up, this could be wonderful news for multimedia e-books. In fact, what about those bought off-line, where transmission speeds won’t count?

In an unholy way, of course, leaps in storage technology could be stunningly disruptive. Copyright zealots at some Euro newspapers have problems now with Google News picking up their links and images. What happens if users can routinely download all editions of their favorite publications and let monster chips gobble up everything for archiving and search?

More than Advil-sized headaches for MPAA?

Not to mention the multimedia piracy potential here, as the MPAA and RIAA might see it, especially on college campuses with tennis-shoenets, so to speak. Students could pick up entire libraries of films in one swoop.

Also, what about people in the same control-freak league as the RIAA—the mainland Chinese government? Move ahead far enough, and I can imagine chip checks at the airport, lest some uppity hackers be smuggling in some uncensored versions of the Internet.

In the near term: USA Today reports: “…MRAM inventor Stuart Parkin of IBM Research once told me that by early next decade, an MRAM-based iPod might hold 10,000 movies instead of 10,000 songs. In June, Israeli start-up Matteris unveiled a 5.25-inch storage disk with a holographic coating that can hold a terabyte of data. The entire Library of Congress is about 20 terabytes. You could put it all on 20 disks that could fit in a shoebox.”

Possible salvation for the copyright guys: Remember, bandwidth consumption keeps growing. Perhaps 3D movies and the like will just defy whatever is the equivalent of Moore’s Law for online transmission speeds at the user level.

Related: Michael’s prediction that “Cell-Phone Growth Rates Will Peak In 2007-2008.” Remember, cell phones are seen by some as The Next Big Thing for e-books. Then again, with billions around, the real issue isn’t just growth but also the matter of making books attractive for existing phones.


  1. Interesting speculation and thoughts. Cheap, very large storage will be *extremely* disruptive and put another nail in the coffin of the business models of companies that rely on copyrights to make money.

    On the one hand, a terabyte is a very large amount of storage. I’ve got a 750gb HD, and you could easily store more ebooks, comic books, etc. on there than you could possibly read in a lifetime (though there is value in having things that you don’t necessarily have any intention of reading). At some point it becomes like the web — the sheer amount of content you have access to more than outweighs the limitations (such as needing some sort of powered device with a screen) to access it.

    Given how easily DRM schemes are circumvented, I don’t see how people make much money off of content under the current business models in the next few decades. Maybe you change the model by only publishing the novel once you’ve received $X from fans. Maybe you give it away and make money some other way. Maybe you be nice like Stardock and release it without DRM and hope people pay anyway (I did pay for Galactic Civ because of the company’s stance on DRM).

    On the other hand, a terabyte is still significantly smaller than a petabyte. A terabyte of space will only hold full-quality rips of about 125-150 DVDs. If you’re willing to accept some loss in quality, double that. Now the 10TB HD that will store 1,000 DVDs at high quality for $250…Hollywood might as well surrender the day that happens.

    Yes HD or 3D or whatever-D movies complicate that as far as size, but what the rise of MP3 has shown us is that people often value flexibility over fidelity. The TB HD with 125 ripped DVDs may be inferior fidelity-wise to the 15gb Blu-Ray version of the same movies, but the additional flexibility may more than offset that advantage.

    Personally, I’m hoping to live long enough to see the Petabyte drive. I think I could fill one. Hopefully I’ll get to try.

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