Plasma Technology for Advanced Devices
Intel's product portfolio currently lacks NAND capability, even though the company's StrataFlash flash product line has NAND-like features. Micron entered the NAND flash market in July 2004. In September, Micron reported that NAND flash represented 15 percent of its net sales of $1.26 billion, a five-fold increase in NAND sales from the prior quarter.
IM Flash Technologies will concentrate on moving to 72nm and 50 nm technology, with initial production slated for early next year. Dave Baglee, Intel's former Fab 11 manager in New Mexico, and Rod Morgan, Micron's former plant manager in Virginia, will head up the new joint-venture company.
"The creation of this new company supports Intel's intent to maintain its industry-leading position in nonvolatile memory and enables us to rapidly enter a fast-growing portion of the flash market segment," said Intel CEO Paul Otellini in a statement.
Apple plans to prepay $500 million to Intel and Micron is part of its $1.25 billion commitment to prepay for NAND flash memory to five chipmakers. The other three chipmakers are Hynix Semiconductor, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba.
As the amount of data that can be stored on flash memory chips increases, they are being used in a wide array of consumer electronics and computing devices, such as music players, USB drives, cameras and cell phones. "We want to be able to produce as many of our wildly popular iPods as the market demands," Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said in a statement. The Apple investment in NAND flash is quite sizeable and one starts to wonder whether it is really just the supply of memory for the iPod music players that Apple is trying to secure.
Flash memory has several advantages over hard-disk drive storage: it consumes less power, it has higher resistance to shock, it's more reliable because there are no moving parts, it can read and write data faster, and it's silent in operation. These are benefits that would enhance mobile computers as well.
Micron CEO Steve Appleton predicts that the computer industry would move in coming years to using flash memory instead of hard disk drives for primary storage devices. Appleton said he expects flash memory to replace disk drives in notebook computers within five years as prices decline. That would bring dramatic increases in battery-powered computer operation as flash memory, with no moving parts, uses far less energy than hard drives.
At this years WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference), Microsoft officials said they had begun talks with hard-disk makers to redefine how hard drives access data. Microsoft is proposing embedding a NAND flash chip in or near the hard drive to serve as a write buffer, in conjunction with "Longhorn", Microsoft's next-generation operating system.
Websites covering Apple and Apple products have been circulating predictions that the low end of Apple’s computer products will become flash based in the near future. Macworld UK quoted Hwang Chang-Gyu, president and CEO of Samsung's semiconductor business, saying that flash-memory price drops of around 40 per cent in the last year are evidence that flash is quickly getting much cheaper. "This will be big once people enjoy how much faster and convenient it is to use solid-state disks rather than hard-disk drives," Hwang said. "We're starting with 16GB and expanding to 100GB in a couple of years."
Replacing the harddrive with flash memory would allow Steve Jobs to introduce an Intel-processor / Intel-flash iBook that will be the thinnest laptop ever made boasting the best battery life of any machine. The moment this happens, the demand for flash memory will explode worldwide and Apples recent investment will provide Apple a significant competitive advantage.
Silent operation is a must for a computer at the heart of a home entertainment system. Apple has shown in the past how much emphasis it places on the silent operation of it's computers. The PowerMac G4 Cube for instance was designed without any fan. The only part of the cube generating some noise was the harddrive.