AMD unveils low-power Mirrorbit flash memory

Advanced Micro Devices' Spansion flash memory joint venture will announce the second-generation of its Mirrorbit flash memory...

Advanced Micro Devices' Spansion flash memory joint venture will announce the second-generation of its Mirrorbit flash memory designed specifically for mobile phones and other wireless devices.

Mirrorbit flash memory now operates at a lower voltage than the first-generation technology, and offers better performance at a price which allows mobile 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 LLC, AMD's flash memory joint venture with Fujitsu. The company manufactures Nor flash memory, and leads that market based on recent data from iSuppli.

Flash memory is used in mobile 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 are not the best storage method for lightweight mobile 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 mobile 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 mobile phones that will download audio and video from a wireless network, Mashkoori said.

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

Mobile phone manufacturers want to offer a less-expensive category of phones for around $100 (£55). That price requires a memory product that costs about 25% of the total manufacturing cost, Nation said.

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

Spansion will offer 256mbps Mirrorbit chips for $14 in quantities of 10,000 units. The company will also sell 128mbps and 64mbps products for $9 and $5.75, respectively, in quantities of 10,000 units.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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