New Flash Memory Family Debuts

AMD and Fujitsu Thursday debuted the first in a new line of Flash memory chips designed completely from their $3 billion joint partnership.

Marketed under the “Spansion” name, the S29AL/GLxxxM device family is based on a MirrorBit architecture and was developed for embedded markets such as consumer electronics — including DVD players/recorders and set top boxes — as well as industrial markets such as networking, industrial automation and automotive electronics.

MirrorBit architecture allows Flash memory devices to hold twice as much data as standard Flash devices for the same price as multilevel-cell technology, resulting in a broader range of sophisticated offerings and functionality for product manufacturers who install the chip, according to AMD. MirrorBit also competes directly with Intel’s StrataFlash technology. Both are similarly priced, although StrataFlash has been on the market for several years now.

The technology is palatable, as Flash memory stores data without needing a continuous power supply. According to recent industry trade statistics, the market for Flash products is expected to grow 36.4 percent to $15.1 billion in 2004, before growth slows to two percent in 2005 with revenues of $15.4 billion. In 2006, Flash is expected to increase nine percent to $16.8 billion in sales.

The devices range in densities from 16 to 256 Megabits and are available for immediate sampling through AMD and Fujitsu.

“In the nine months since Spansion’s inception, we have moved swiftly to unite the management, engineering and manufacturing operations of AMD’s and Fujitsu’s memory businesses into a single, cohesive company,” Sylvia Summers, group vice president and general manager of Spansion’s Embedded Business Unit, said in a statement. “I am proud to say that the arrival of our S29AL/GLxxxM device family represents not only a significant integration milestone for the company, but also a positive step forward for our customers as it allows them to accelerate their migration from floating gate to MirrorBit technology.”

The S29AL/GLxxxM product line is manufactured at the AMD’s Fab 25 in Austin, Texas using 230-nanometer (nm) technology, which the companies suggest is a cost-structure comparable to 180 nanometer multi-level cell (MLC) and 130 nanometer single bit-per-cell floating gate technologies. AMD and Fujitsu said higher density members of the S29AL/GLxxxM product family are expected to migrate to second-generation 110-nm in the fourth quarter of this year.

The companies said the new family of devices is also designed to be package-, pinout-, and software-compatible with the existing Am29LVxxxM and MBM29PLxxxM product families. The S29AL/GLxxxM also offers Lead (Pb) Free Packaging, which contain less than 0.1 percent total weight of lead, to reduce environmental impact and help compliance efforts with international regulations. The Spansion family also includes its simultaneous read-write (SRW) product family; super low-voltage 1.8 Volt Flash memory devices; and burst-and page-mode devices.

The launch also lets AMD maintain more control over production and sales, especially in Europe, and separate its semiconductor business with its memory business. Two-thirds of the No. 2 chipmaker’s revenue comes from its processors; the other third comes from its Flash memory business.

AMD owns 60 percent interest in FACL, the company formed in the wake of the joint venture, while Fujitsu owns 40 percent. The new company is an offshoot of the original manufacturing joint venture, initiated in 1993.

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