Apple's move to use flash memory in its most popular iPod category, the iPod mini-replacing, new nano range, marks a major change in memory strategy.

Jupiter Research analyst David Card said: "Apple changed its product strategy more rapidly than we thought it would." He remarks that the company only produced its first flash-based product, the iPod shuffle, at the beginning of the year.

The strategic shift also reflects the increasing efficacy of flash memory. Flash memory capacities are expected to begin to reach at least 16GB next year.

This type of memory is also smaller and more robust than hard drives, because it is solid state, has lower power demands and heat output, and - perhaps the killer punch - is rapidly growing cheaper.

While Apple is ahead of the price curve, thanks to its huge deal with flash memory maker Samsung, which saw Apple grab 40 per cent of flash production, analysts at iSuppli expect prices to continue to fall.

"According to iSuppli, the price-per-megabyte cost for flash memory has fallen 56 per cent in the last year. The firm projects the price will fall an additional 47 per cent by next year and then another 33 per cent by 2007," reports Reuters.

Jupiter Research estimates there will be 56 million MP3 players in the world by 2010, and more than half will be flash devices holding under 1,000 songs.

Analysts believe that just 20 per cent of iPod users have over 1,000 songs on their player.

Card expects good-capacity players featuring good design and battery life to debut for around $50 next year, when the "market will explode".

Apple's iPod shuffle presently costs from $99. Will Apple press home its advantageous memory price deal to deliver the coveted $50 music player?