Intel rolls out new StrataFlash for cell phones, PDAs

Intel on Wednesday unveiled a new flash memory chip for cell phones, handhelds and other wireless devices. The company claims the new StrataFlash memory chip is four times faster than existing flash memory.

The 0.18-micron Synchronous Intel StrataFlash memory chips, available in 3-volt or 1.8-volt versions, use a technology that allows software applications to execute code directly from flash, instead of downloading it to RAM first, Intel said in a statement. That will save device makers the cost of redundant memory and circuit board space, Intel said.

"This allows you to store more information on a smaller die, and consume less power, which is very important to things like cell phones," said Richard Doherty, director of research at The Envisioneering Group, a Seaford, New York-based analyst group.

Synchronous Intel StrataFlash also increases fast-read speeds by adding a 66MHz burst mode. This increases memory transfer speeds to 92M bytes per second, which is about four times faster than asynchronous reads on standard flash memory products, Intel said.

Speed is increasingly more important with flash, Doherty said.

"It's key as people are trying to use multimedia," he said, giving as an example a digital camera and the amount of time it takes after shooting a photo before the camera can take another photo, which is a consequence of flash speed. "This will help Intel with the cell phone, audio and still-picture markets," he said.

The memory can be used in conjunction with Intel's flash memory software to further improve performance, Intel said. Intel's Persistent Storage Manager combines code, file, and data storage on a single flash chip for devices running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system, while Flash Data Integrator provides similar storage for cell phones, Intel said.

Flash memory is a great bargain now, with prices having fallen by as much as half since March or April, Doherty said.

The 3-volt Synchronous Intel StrataFlash memory will be available in densities from 64M bit to 256M bit, Intel said. The 128M-bit version is currently sampling, with production for all versions expected in April. Prices will range from US$10 for the 64M-bit chips to $35 for the 256M-bit version in quantities of 10,000, a standard measurement for chip sales.

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Douglas F. Gray

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