Recent discussions claiming hard drive technology is about to be superseded by flash-based memory solutions are mistimed, a Seagate executive said last night.

The comment was in response to a prediction made by the head of Samsung's chip division that flash memory is on course to replace other forms of data storage technology, especially in portable devices.

"When Samsung said hard disks are dead, I think they were being completely irresponsible, extremely short-sighted and simply weren't telling the truth" said Rob Pait, director of global consumer electronics marketing at Seagate, during an interview at Ceatec. "It may be that one day flash memory will be all that we need, but one day we will be able to take tourist trips to Mars."

The prediction of flash memory supremacy was made by Hwang Chang-Gyu, president of the Korean company's semiconductor division, last month as the company launched a 16GB flash memory chip.

Memory flash: Apple as example

In the last few years the price of flash memory has been falling fast and making it more viable at increasingly large capacities. For example, when Apple launched its iPod mini line in early 2004 it opted for a hard-disk drive, but a price drop of about 40 per cent in flash prices meant the recently launched iPod nano line can use flash memory for the same storage capacity.

Seagate was one of a handful of companies that supplied 1-inch hard-disk drives to Apple for its music players and Pait said Apple's decision to kill the product line won't have a major affect on its 1-inch drive business.

"While we really value Apple's business, the point is that it just didn't make that big of a dent and we haven't changed our forecast for the 1-inch drive," he said. "The demand is huge for our Compact Flash drive."

Samsung is set to go straight for the personal computer hard-disk-drive market soon with the planned launch of a 16GB solid-state disk drive based on flash chips. The drives will have parallel ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) interfaces, just like hard-disk drives, and ships in cases that match 2.5-inch or 1.8-inch drives so they can be used as direct replacements.

Pait said that if Samsung was sure the hard-disk-drive business was dead then the two companies should talk.

"We thought Samsung was just being weird," he said of Hwang's comments. "If Samsung wants to come to us with their dead hard-disk division, we'll be more than happy to take it off their hands."