Turning NAND Flash into a Boot Device

In the same way that magnetic RAM is being developed as a quick way to boot up PCs, mobile handset makers are now looking to NAND Flash memory to serve in a new capacity.

At the forefront of the movement is Korean-based memory maker Samsung and London-based Symbian. The two companies Monday said they have tweaked Symbian’s latest OS — v7.0s — to support NAND Flash memory as both a boot-up and storage device. The goal is to load rich multimedia faster in wireless handsets.

NAND is a computer logic circuit that produces an output which is the inverse of that of an AND circuit. The idea is to replace the need for NOR Flash by allowing the processor to boot directly from NAND Flash via OS shadowing in RAM.

“Furthermore, no compromise is made in storage space due to NAND Flash’s significantly lower cost-per-bit and increased density compared to NOR Flash,” Samsung Director of Strategic Marketing Ivan Greenberg said in a statement.

In the past, Symbian and Samsung say phones capable of delivering such services required a “memory cocktail” that combined NOR, NAND, and mobile DRAM devices.

The companies also say the new techniques needs a comprehensive NAND Flash controller such as the ones found in chipsets such as Texas Instruments’ family of TCS chipsets and OMAP application processors.

For example, Mike Whittingham, Director of Symbian’s Semiconductor Program points out TCS chipsets and OMAP application processors include a bootstrap technology, which lets developers store both code and data into NAND Flash.

“As the Symbian OS enables phones with richer multimedia capabilities, handsets will also need to increase memory capacity to deal with those features,” said Whittingham.

The partnership has an edge of sorts considering Samsung is the industry’s largest supplier of NAND Flash memory, accounting for more than 50 percent of the global market for NAND devices in 2002.

Symbian is no shirk either. The joint company is a consortium of palmtop computer maker Psion; mobile phone giants Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson; electronics powerhouse Matsushita Communications; and Siemens. The company develops and licenses a software operating system (OS) for mobile phones and handheld devices.

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