RealTime IT News

Intel Seeks a Bigger Slice of the Memory Market

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel is looking for a larger share of the computer memory marketplace and will double its 2005 product line to do it, the company said Wednesday.

The chipmaking giant said it is introducing several NOR flash memory products for the cellular and embedded markets. Intel said it is also adopting a new computer memory technology, called Fully-Buffered Dual In-Line Memory Module (FB-DIMM) for its first multi-core server platform for Xeon chips, code-named Bensley.

NOR (Not-Or) flash is a rewritable memory chip that holds its content without power. The memory, which Intel helped develop in 1988, is used in about 15 different memory applications, usually for PCs and other desktop hardware.

Sean Maloney, executive vice president and new general manager of Intel's mobility group, told the press Wednesday that Intel would not be producing NAND flash (Not-And), which is used in 40 assorted flash card applications such as storing music, video and other data.

"We are evaluating disruptive technologies, but right now our focus is pushing on NOR," Maloney.

Intel's memory product family is in a rebuilding stage after its so-called sales "hangover" back in early 2003. That was blamed on a glut of flash memory. Intel's non-volatile memory business in 2004 went much better thanks to record sales in the PC business.

"Contrary to what some of you in the press and our competition said, the reason we did well with flash is because this stuff is hard to make," Maloney said. "Reports that memory has become commoditized are over-hyped."

But Intel may have a harder time in the near-term. The Semiconductor Industry Association's forecast for the next three years indicates the flash memory market will decline in sales by 1.8 percent to $15.5 billion in 2005 followed by two years of growth to an estimated $18.3 billion in 2007. Then there is the increased pressure from rivals like Samsung, Toshiba and Spansion (AMD and Fujitsu).

As for its roadmap, Intel said its first new flash memory product for the cellular market segment is code-named Sibley with 512Mb of storage and support for multiple RAM interfaces. Intel also revealed new flash software for the cellular market code-named Naubinway. The next generation of Intel flash Data Integrator (FDI) flash file system is designed for multimedia phones.

For the embedded marketplace, Intel is leading of the pack with Sixmile, an upcoming flash product family.

As for FB-DIMM, Intel released a product development kit (PDK) this week. The kit consists of a motherboard based on the Bensley platform components and is compatible with several operating systems.

In related news, Intel said it plans to conduct open and private lab programs quarterly and offer lab resources online. The program is focused on FB-DIMM interoperability and driver readiness for Intel EM64T technology for systems using Windows or Linux operating systems.

"There's incredible industry momentum around FB-DIMM and multi-core processor technologies that enable Intel architecture platforms to achieve even higher performance," Jim Pappas, director of initiatives in Intel Digital Enterprise Group, said in a statement.

"The Bensley PDK and labs program provide tools that enable the industry to perfect their next-generation products. Ultimately, these programs will help accelerate the use of new technology while increasing IT managers' confidence in deploying state-of-the-art enterprise products."