New Intel Flash Line Could Bring Price Drop

With a goal to be the top supplier of flash by next year, Intel pushes into the "broad market."

Intel Corp. plans to refocus its efforts on the mainstream flash market with the launch of a new product family early next year, which analysts said could further undermine already deteriorating pricing.

From its goal of being the top supplier in flash memory for cellular handsets two years ago, Intel executives have said that they intend to be the top supplier of flash, overall, by next year. That means that the company is going to aggressively push into what it calls the "broad market," stripping features from its higher-performance parts to meet a low-cost price target.

According to Ed Doller, chief technical officer for Intels Flash Products Group in Santa Clara, Calif., the new product line will be consistent with Intels recent strategy of capitalizing on its manufacturing prowess first and foremost. Intel plans to disclose its flash plans at the Intel Developer Forum in Taiwan on Tuesday, as well as a new version of its Flash Data Integrator software and a new developer kit for handset makers, Doller said in an interview late Monday.

NOR flash has traditionally been somewhat slower than its NAND counterpart, the type of flash memory used for storing data in CompactFlash cards and competing products. Cellular phones, PDAs and other products typically use a small amount of NOR flash for code storage and a much greater amount of NAND flash for storing data, in part because of its file structure and fast write speed.

/zimages/6/28571.gifIntel CEO Craig Barrett sits down with eWEEK. Read the interview here.

The broad market, which Doller defined as "everything but cellular," doesnt require the features that Intel has built into its top-of-the-line StrataFlash flash products, which include the ability to pack more than one bit per cell—which Intel calls multilayer cell (MLC) technology—and, potentially, features such as the ability to read data while writing to another partition within the cell.

"Clearly, cellular was the largest piece of the market, and its where weve been focused for the last five or six years," Doller said. By its own estimates, Intel products ship into 40 percent of the cellular market. "From a density standpoint, our L18 [StrataFlash] fits well in the cellular market. But we havent done a good job of being focused on the broad market, which is still a fairly large segment of the market."

Specifically, Doller said, the company will be focusing on densities 128M bits and greater, using the companys low-voltage LV30 flash core as a base. Intel has already begun to sample some its products on its finer 90-nm manufacturing process. "To lower cost, we will be removing some of these features that we include in the cellular market," Doller added.

Next page: Intel: The NOR flash king?