Chip Titans Look to Startup for Flash Lift

Intel and Micron extend their work with flash memory by collaborating with nanotechnology company Nanosys.

IM Flash Technologies, the Intel-Micron Technology flash memory venture, is hoping for large gains from investing in nanotechnology research.

The company on June 29 expanded its collaboration with Nanosys, a Palo Alto, Calif., nanotechnology startup thats designing microscopic nanowires that could be used to boost NAND flash memory chips capacities in the future.

NAND flash memory might be best known for storing music inside Apple Computers iPod Nano.

But the technology is being used more extensively in PCs as their capacities grow and costs come down. Hybrid hard drives, which incorporate 64MB or 128MB of flash as a buffer, are expected to be used widely in 2007.

Meanwhile, solid-state hard drives are also coming to market from companies such as Samsung.

Breakthroughs in memory densities made possible by Nanosys memory technology—designed to increase memory chips storage capabilities while still being compatible with current chip manufacturing methods—would make it possible to pack more bits of data into a given memory chip, cutting NAND memorys cost per MB.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about using flash memory in PCs.

At the moment, solid-state drives arent able to match the capacities and prices of traditional hard drives, experts say. But delivering higher-capacity NAND chips might make the solid-state drives more practical for certain applications such as lightweight notebooks, experts have said.

Yet, to be sure, the companies work together is still in the research and development stage.

However, "We are extremely pleased to be working with two of the top leaders in the area of non-volatile memory," said Calvin Chow, Nanosys CEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Together, Intel and Micron bring an unparalleled set of capabilities that will help accelerate the development and incorporation of our nanostructures into non-volatile memory devices."

IM Flash Technologies was created in November 2005, when Intel and Micron pooled their respective resources in cash, technology, management and manufacturing.

For its part, Intel recently reorganized its Flash Memory Products Group, which includes its NAND and NOR flash interests.

As part of the reorganization, it rolled its NOR flash memory manufacturing and product development, which had once been separate entities, into the Flash Product Groups NOR division.

NOR flash memory is sometimes used for data storage. But mostly it is tasked with code execution in devices such as cellular phones. The NAND operation was not affected.

The flash reorganization came around a week after Intel CEO Paul Otellini on April 27 outlined the business review while pledging to enact sweeping changes—ranging from accelerating its PC processor development cycles to re-evaluating underperforming businesses—in an effort to remake the chip maker in to a more nimble company.

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