Could Micron buy Numonyx?
Intel's flash children could be reunited
NAND flash chip manufacturer and Intel partner Micron could be looking to buy Intel offspring and NOR flash manufacturer Numonyx, according to an EE Times report.
This would enable Intel to get out of Numonyx, Micron to get into the NOR flash business, and get its hands on Numonyx's phase-change memory technology.
Numonyx is a joint venture between Intel, which owns 45 per cent, and STMicroelectronics, which has 49 per cent. Financial service company Francisco Partners owns the rest, and invested $150m when Numonyx was formed in 2008. The flash operations contributed by both Intel and STMicroelectronics were unprofitable. It is not known if Numonyx is profitable.
NOR flash is typically used in mobile phones, whereas NAND flash is used more in general computing products. Smart phones are tending to consume more and more NAND.
Intel and Micron are partners in IM Flash Technologies which is a NAND chip foundry. At one time it was thought that Intel wanted to be shot of the flash business altogether. The setting up of Numonyx and IM Flash Technologies was seen as laying stepping stones to a flash-free state.
Now Intel is selling disk drive replacement X18 and X25 flash modules as well as developing flash-on-motherboard Braidwood technology. Its partner Micron is developing PCIe-connected flash solid state drives, and we hear no more flash divestiture talk from Intel. However, it may be quite happy to buy flash dice from arms-length foundries and trusted partners.
Phase-change memory (PCM), which stores binary digits via state changes in cells rather than as a magnetic direction, can scale down to much smaller process geometries than NAND flash which is forecast to hit a wall in a few years time. PCM also has the promise of being faster to access than flash and be byte-addressable instead of having to be written to and erased in blocks.
The NAND flash market has recently seen a firming up of prices after foundry over-capacity has been mothballed.
Both Micron and Numonyx say they don't comment on rumours. ®
Chris, please use common sense!
Chris, you know better than to quote that PCM "has the promise of being faster to access than flash and be byte-addressable instead of having to be written to and erased in blocks." You know that is not true! PCM holds no such promise. As the recently published Alverstone PCM datasheet reveals, the thing writes at 0.3 megabytes a second. I repeat, 0.3 megabytes a second. You know that even the cheapest Flash SDHC Class 6 cards write at 6 megabytes a second, sustained (and some of the better ones, but still cheap, actually do over 9 megabytes per second), while Flash SSDs go well over 100 megabytes per second. Oh, and the thing holds just 16 megabytes - barely enough to store 3 MP3 files or two pictures - the price per gigabyte, is of course, is astronomical. Back in the real world, Flash costs $2 per gigabyte and Intel/Micron make 8 gigs chips at 34nms.
PCM is a techno-Ponzi. Numonyx management should be ashamed of misleading the technical community and letting rumors like that spread. Numonyx is a money-losing NOR maker (just read Intel's 10Q). Nothing more. And you remember the fate of the other money-losing NOR maker, don't you?