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M-Systems' x2 No Flash in the Hand

Flash memory maker M-Systems Thursday said it is close to releasing a new chip based on its recently announced x2 technology and multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash silicon.

In a partnership with Toshiba, Newark, Calif.-based M-Systems said its Mobile DiskOnChip G3 flash disk will be available in the second quarter of 2003, with mass production slated for the third quarter. The memory chip is used mostly in mobile devices including PDAs.

The two companies are betting that MLC NAND will be able to beat out NOR flash for use in mobile phones. Currently, Intel leads the flash market with its Strataflash -- basically a MLC NOR system.

MLC NAND stores 2 bits of data per cell rather than the 1 bit per cell capacity found in single-level NAND flash, in essence doubling the storage capacity of the silicon. M-Systems' x2 technology is a combination of performance-enhancing algorithms.

Tokyo-based Toshiba, which invented flash memory, said it would work with M-Systems to market a complete family of Mobile DiskOnChip G3 products including future versions with capacities ranging between 256Mbit to up to 1 gigabit (128 megabytes).

The new chip features a single silicon die containing 512 megabits (64 megabytes) of Toshiba's 0.13 micron MLC NAND flash, an ultra thin controller and an execute in place (XIP) boot block.

M-Systems says with its multi-plane operations, direct memory access (DMA) support and MultiBurst operation, the G3 has a burst read speed of up to 80 megabytes per second, which the company says is optimal for fast system boot and large file transfers (video and audio), common in multimedia messaging service (MMS).

In order to conserve battery life, M-Systems said the Mobile DiskOnChip G3 consumes as little as 10 micro amps when not in use.

The G3 also offers Error Detection Code/Error Correction Code (EDC/ECC) specifically tailored for MLC flash technology. The disk is contained within a 7x10mm ball grid array (BGA) package.

"Mobile DiskOnChip G3 is the first memory device to enable the benefits of MLC NAND technology for memory-hungry mobile applications. It offers more memory without increasing the size of the silicon die," said M-Systems president Chuck Schouw. "Working closely with Toshiba, we have applied our proven flash disk expertise, gained through years of experience, to this new product optimized for the mobile market. Mobile DiskOnChip G3 represents the pinnacle of non-volatile memory technology designed to meet the specific needs of this burgeoning market."