Monday, December 3, 2007

Samsung and Toshiba Form United Front against ONFI

On December 3, 2007, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba Corp. announced that they have licensed to one another, the product specifications and the rights to produce and market Samsung’s OneNAND and Flex-OneNAND, and Toshiba’s LBA-NAND and mobile LBA-NAND memory chips.

Both companies plan to develop compatible products based on the respective specifications to be released next year.

Our Take

After sitting on the sidelines and watching while ONFI amassed a membership roster of 57 companies since its establishment in May 2006, Samsung and Toshiba have finally acted and joined hands to develop products based on common specifications. Both companies are no strangers to collaboration, having shared common NAND specifications for years.
LBA-NAND, Toshiba’s solution for managing the increasing ECC requirements and bad block management of NAND flash by combining NAND flash memory with a controller in a single package, is expected to become mainstream for devices at 40nm and below. ONFI responded with their own version: BA-NAND. With Samsung’s backing, LBA-NAND is expected to be a very viable alternative to BA-NAND.

As for OneNAND, Samsung has been pressured by mobile phone manufacturers to license OneNAND to ensure a second source for the devices. Last year, Samsung licensed OneNAND to ST Microelectronics and now Toshiba. Toshiba and SanDisk (former M-Systems) jointly developed mDOC (mobile Disk-on-Chip) which is similar to OneNAND but based on MLC NAND. Both products integrate a NAND core, SRAM, error correcting engines, and logic circuits in a single chip with a NOR interface. In fact, OneNAND was developed by Samsung based on IP licensed from M-Systems with the licensing agreement subsequently terminated in 2005. mDOC has never been a significant product line for Toshiba and resource-wise, it does not make sense for Toshiba to invest in two similar but incompatible, competing solutions. It appears opting to support OneNAND at the expense of mDOC is the price Toshiba is willing to pay to garner Samsung’s backing for LBA-NAND.