AMD unveils lower-power Mirrorbit flash memory

  • Tom Krazit (IDG News Service)
  • 15 June, 2004 09:36

Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD's) Spansion flash memory joint venture plans to announce on Tuesday the second-generation of its Mirrorbit flash memory designed specifically for cell phones and other wireless devices, the company said.

Mirrorbit flash memory now operates at a lower voltage than the first-generation technology, and offers better performance at a price that allows cell phone manufacturers to use it in a wider range of devices, said Amir Mashkoori, senior vice president and general manager of the Spansion wireless business unit.

Spansion is the operating name for FASL, AMD's flash memory joint venture with Fujitsu. The company manufacturers NOR flash memory, and currently leads that market based on recent data from iSuppli.

Flash memory is used in cell phones, set-top boxes, and other devices to store data when the power is turned off. PCs use RAM to store data temporarily, but RAM requires a constant supply of electricity. Hard drives are significantly smaller and cheaper than in the past, but still aren't the best storage method for lightweight cell phones.

NOR flash memory has generally been used in embedded devices such as set-top boxes and DVD players. The other main type of flash memory, known as NAND, is less expensive than NOR but is also considered less reliable. It has been used in expansion memory cards and digital cameras.

The new generation of Mirrorbit technology makes NOR memory a more viable product for cell phone manufacturers, Mashkoori said. It now operates at 1.8 volts, as compared to 3 volts required by the earlier generation. It also uses burst technology to transfer data from the memory to the processor.

Burst technology allows the processor to access a stream of data from memory, which will be very important for newer cell phones that will download audio and video from a wireless network, Mashkoori said.

The performance increases help improve Mirrorbit's appeal to cell phone designers, but the real key of the second-generation product is the ability to deliver those performance increases at the pricing requirements of cell phone manufacturers, said John Nation, division marketing manager for Spansion.

Cell phone manufacturers want to offer a less-expensive category of phones for around $100, Nation said. That price requires a memory product that costs about 25 percent of the total manufacturing cost, he said.

AMD has increased memory performance while staying within those pricing guidelines, Nation said. This means cell phone users can enjoy more memory-intensive applications without having to pay as much for their cell phones, he said.