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Intel primes Flash standardisation push

Industry body formed to define common interface

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Intel, Hynix, Micron, Sony and others have founded the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) working group which will develop a specification that may make it easier to incorporate Flash memory in notebooks to shorten start-up times and boost battery life.

The chip giant announced the formation of ONFI at its Developer Forum in March. It also showed off an add-in card, codenamed 'Robson', designed to be fitted into a notebook to accelerate the boot process and application loading. ONFI will define a standardised interface by which the Flash chips mounted on such a card communicate with the card's controller chip - or, for that matter, the controller chips embedded in other Flash devices, from iPods to set-top boxes.

The idea is to make it easier for companies to integrate NAND Flash into any device by allowing them to mix and match controller and Flash, safe in the knowledge that both work to a common standard.

The snag is the absence of Samsung, the world's largest NAND Flash producer, from the organisation. ONFI claimed that the South Korean giant was not opposed to the ONFI approach. Indeed, we understand the two are discussing how the South Korean giant can participate. The stumbling block appears to be "the ONFI legal agreements", as the organisation puts it, suggesting Samsung may be unhappy about how and by whom the intellectual property arising from the development effort will be owned.

ONFI said it expects the initial specification to be completed in the second half of 2006. ®

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