In an attempt to gain additional share in the flash memory market, Intel yesterday introduced several new NOR products aimed at the cellular and embedded market segments. The company also announced it will make flash for memory cards to tap into a revenue stream that Samsung and Toshiba are already exploiting.
The flash memory market posted 33 percent growth to reach US$15.6 billion in 2004, according to market researcher IC Insights. The firm predicts a slower pace this year, with a 2 percent gain that will propel sales to $15.9 billion in what analysts see as a saturated market. IC Insights predicts the flash market will rebound in 2006 with 15 percent year-over-year growth and $18.3 billion in revenue.
“By adding these new products, we are doubling our NOR product portfolio to meet both our cellular and embedded customer requirements for high performance, high reliability and code execution,” said Darin Billerbeck, vice president and general manager, Intel Flash Products Group.
No Flash in The Pan
Billerbeck said Intel is approaching 2005 with more focus and determination to grow its NOR flash product line. Intel’s first step is a product for the cellular market codenamed “Sibley,” the first NOR multilevel cell flash memory device manufactured on Intel’s leading 90 nanometer technology.
Intel also revealed flash software for the cellular market segment codenamed “Naubinway,” the next generation of Intel Flash Data Integrator flash file system designed for multimedia phones. Additionally, “Sixmile,” a new flash product family designed specifically for the embedded market segment, will be Intel’s lowest cost-per-bit embedded flash solution.
“We are very excited to introduce our largest new product offering yet for the embedded market segment,” said Billerbeck. “Utilizing our proven, fourth generation of Intel StrataFlash memory, the Sixmile product family will be our most compelling embedded solution for an increasingly diverse and demanding market.”
Maintaining Market Share
IC Insights analyst Brian Matus told TechNewsWorld that Intel’s biggest challenge in the flash memory segment is maintaining market share in the cell phone space with its NOR products. Matus said NAND-based memory is beginning to put some pressure on NOR.
NOR, which stands for “N or,” refers to the way data is retrieved with this technology. NAND stands for “N and,” and can typically hold much more data than NOR chips can, and at less cost.
“NOR works very well for code storage in cell phones,” Matus said. “But as we are increasingly getting more camera phone and even video phone features and greater processing power, a lot more NAND flash is being implemented in cell phones. We are coming to the point where some manufacturers, specifically Samsung, Toshiba and NEC, are working on ways of using NAND flash exclusively in cell phones.”
For now, NOR remains the dominant option in the cell phone segment and Intel remains the dominant provider, edging out AMD in an ongoing battle for market share. Matus said Intel is putting more pressure on AMD with these new products, which will launch this year and be available to cellular and embedded customers.