Also on Tuesday, Smith acknowledged the diminishing returns due from shrinking NAND flash to tighter design geometries. Samsung and other manufacturers make flash chips at about 20 nanometers today, but that is expected to shrink over the next few years. Studies have shown that smaller geometries will slow flash down and cause more errors, though it is expected to remain faster than hard disk drives.
"The physics there are becoming challenging for protecting the integrity of the data," Smith said. To counter that, flash vendors are working on better error correction technologies, including digital signal processors, he said. Demand for that kind of capability drove Apple's recent acquisition of Anobit, Smith said. "2012 is all about that technology. People are trying to differentiate themselves on that."