Intel and Micron Pack More Flash Memory in Less Space

IM Flash Technologies--the joint venture between Intel and Micron--has reached a new milestone for NAND flash memory with a smaller 20nm process. The smaller 20nm technology opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for smartphones, tablets, and other portable gadgets.

Intel and Micron have crafted an 8GB sample device using the 20nm process which it expects to mass produce in the second half of this year. The partners are also expected to produce a 16GB device, and can theoretically pack 128GB of flash storage onto a solid-state device the size of a postage stamp.

It was just over a year ago that IM Flash Technologies introduced the 25nm flash technology--doubling memory capacity over the preceding process. Just when the competition had finally caught up to compete head to head with 25nm flash memory, Intel and Micron raised the bar.

The 20nm process has similar performance and endurance specs as the 25nm NAND flash technology, while delivering about 50 percent more memory capacity in the same space. And, if that is not enough of an advantage, the 20nm memory can also be manufactured for a third less cost per gigabyte than equivalent 25nm memory.

The IM Flash Technologies press release announcing the 20nm breakthrough explains, "A reduction in the flash storage layout provides greater system level efficiency as it enables tablet and smartphone manufacturers to use the extra space for end-product improvements such as a bigger battery, larger screen or adding another chip to handle new features."

What does the smaller flash memory technology mean for you? It can mean a variety of things, or a combination of the following:

Smaller Devices: The 20nm flash technology results in memory that uses 30 to 40 percent less space to deliver the same storage capacity as equivalent 25nm memory. Device manufacturers can take advantage of the 20nm memory to develop gadgets that are even smaller than today's mobile devices.

Cheaper Devices: With flash memory that costs a third less than the current 25nm memory, device manufacturers can make higher profit margins on the devices they sell, or pass that savings on by cutting the price on products, or split the difference and do a little of both.

Greater Functionality: With memory that takes up 30 to 40 percent less space, and delivers the same storage capacity for a third less cost, smartphone and tablet manufacturers can take that cost difference and available space and add new features and functionality to existing devices without affecting the current size or price.

Rivals will now be diligently pursuing the 20nm line in the sand, but IM Flash Technologies is already preparing to unveil a 16nm process later this year. What happens when flash memory gets down to 1nm?

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