Intel to expand flash memory efforts

Intel wants to be No. 1 again, and in a flash.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker, which slipped from first to fourth place in the flash memory market last year, is revamping its strategy and will try to regain its footing by manufacturing a wider variety of flash for a more disparate range of customers, according to Peter van Deventer, director of the flash products group at Intel. The new strategy will also put the company in direct competition with the current market leader, Samsung, as Intel will start to manufacture an inexpensive type of flash more suited for storing data on memory cards, Samsung's specialty in this area.

At the moment, Intel specializes in the more reliable, but more expensive, type of flash that's used for storing software code. Samsung also is promoting its chips for code storage. "We will be able to secure a majority of the marketplace with our technology," van Deventer said. "We see a path to having a significant portion of the data market." Last year wasn't exactly a banner one in flash for Intel. Expecting large shortages, the company kicked off 2003 by raising prices of flash chips by up to 40 percent. The shortages didn't materialize, however, and cell phone customers defected. Nokia was one of them, van Deventer acknowledged.

Intel also failed to anticipate the popularity of NAND flash, the less expensive and more familiar version of flash memory for storing data. NAND flash sits inside MP3 players and portable flash cards like Sony's Memory Stick. Shipments of products using this technology more than doubled in 2003, lifting the fortunes of NAND manufacturers like Samsung and Toshiba.

News source: C|net

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