Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Samsung and Numonyx Drive PCM Adoption

Samsung and Numonyx today announced that they will jointly develop common specifications for phase change memory (PCM). Common specifications are necessary to drive the adoption of PCM, particularly since OEMs do not want to be beholden to one supplier. The development of common specifications is analogous to what Intel and ST did in NOR flash starting with the 90nm NOR flash generation and resulted in Intel and ST being dual sourced at major OEMs.

The bit alterability of PCM make it attractive in simplifying firmware and reducing system overhead, however, adoption of PCM will likely be limited until costs approach that of flash memories. With a 45nm 1Gb PCM chip scheduled for production for the end of 2009, Numonyx will be closing the gap with NOR flash, however it'll take much longer for a new memory technology to break out of its niche status, if at all. Just take a look at where FRAM and MRAM are today.

This colloboration is the right step to facilitate the development of the infrastructure supporting PCM. Samsung's backing is a validation of the technology and also provides OEMs the confidence to commit themselves to this emerging memory technology.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Samsung and Toshiba Extend Patent Cross-licensing Agreement

Samsung and Toshiba have decided to extend their semiconductor patent cross-licensing agreement which ran from September 2002 to March 2009. No timetable was given for the new agreement but it is estimated that it will run for seven years, the same timeframe for the earlier announced Samsung-SanDisk patent cross license agreement.

As the inventor of NAND flash memory, Toshiba has the largest portfolio of NAND flash memory patents with a couple thousand patents. Despite being the No. 2 NAND flash memory supplier, Toshiba has been at the forefront of introducing new process technologies. Its super self-aligned STI process introduced in its 90nm NAND flash products were copied by other vendors in their 70nm and 60nm processes. The company was also the first to introduce new materials for the wordline and bitline in its 56nm process, the same materials which were incorporated into Samsung's 42nm process. And the company also led the transition to 64-cell NAND strings.

By signing these agreements with Toshiba and SanDisk, Samsung continues to have access to important NAND flash process technology as well as multi-level cell flash memory design IP relevant for future NAND flash generations.