RealTime IT News

Spansion Makes Splash in Flash

AMD and Fujitsu have embarked on a new line of advanced Flash memory to address an explosion of consumer electronics products, the companies said Tuesday.

The collaboration comes from AMD's Spansion subsidiary, which is producing an entirely new Flash memory family based on the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI), an emerging serial communication standard with a projected growth rate of $500 million in 2005 to more than $1 billion in 2007, according to market analysts with Web-Feet Research.

The product family -- named Spansion FL -- uses a combination of "NOR" Flash memory with the company's proprietary MirrorBit technology. The components range in speeds from 1 to 16 megabits (Mb) today, with devices up to 64Mb planned for mid-2005.

NOR Flash (as in "not, or") is used in about 15 different memory applications, usually for PCs and other desktop hardware. The other kind -- NAND Flash (as in "not, and") -- is used in 40 assorted Flash card applications, such as storing music, video and other data.

Rumors abound that the Semiconductor Industry Association's (SIA) yearly update of the industry sales trends this week will predict a NAND market with negative market growth in 2005, but Alan Niebel, CEO of Web-Feet Research, told internetnews.com his firm sees more demand for NAND than for NOR.

"The trend is that NOR will grow by 10 percent by generation of products, while NAND will triple each generation because there are many more consumables," he said. "Of the total memory market revenues projected for 2007, NOR Flash will only make up 11.8 billion of a 27 billion total Flash market. That means NADN is expected to make up the majority of the revenue."

Because it uses NOR components, Serial Flash memory communicates with processors in a different way than traditional parallel Flash memory does. Traditional Flash memory inputs or outputs 8, 16, or 32 bits of data simultaneously, but serial Flash memory inputs and outputs only one data bit (a "1" or a "0") at a time.

"[Serial Flash memory] is not a full savior for NOR, but it does offer more potential than parallel Flash," Niebel said. "Mostly it's because they are cannibalizing sockets from parallel Flash. The technology is now being used in LCD monitors, DVD players, modems and even migrating towards the BIOS in the PC that was a peer firmware hub in the desktops. It has the ability to take the pin count down from about 42 or 44 to only 4 pins in some cases."

Niebel said the side benefit of a lower pin count means a reduction in testing times, which can take up as much as 25 percent of the cost of the microprocessor.

"Some are taking a higher density Flash component and giving it a serial interface just to test it in the final stages but not using it in the field application," Niebel said.

With the addition of Serial Flash memory, the Spansion subsidiary said it has a very broad range of NOR Flash memory densities -- between 1 to 512Mb.

To help out with the production and evangelize its MirrorBit technology as an industry standard, Spansion said it is teaming with Saifun Semiconductors out of Netanya, Israel, to develop the Spansion FL family. The companies said Spansion will use its proprietary MirrorBit technology to manufacture product designs created by Saifun.

Meantime, Spansion's latest product line includes the S29GL512N, a 512-megabit member of the Spansion GL-N product family. The memory chip combines expanded storage capacity with high performance and security and is earmarked for the next generation of home and automotive electronics, telecom and networking equipment, and mobile devices.

AMD said the GL-N family also includes fully compatible 256Mb and 128Mb devices to aid customers who design numerous products based on a single platform.

The FL-family products are available now. The companies are also sampling the Spansion S29GL512N products.