Elpida Moves Into NAND Flash Memory With Spansion

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Japanese DRAM maker Elpida Memory will soon become a player in the global NAND flash memory market when it starts selling its own flash products.

The company on Wednesday expanded an alliance with Spansion, the former flash memory joint venture between Fujitsu and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Spansion will license its NAND flash intellectual property to Elpida as part of the agreement, and the Japanese company will produce NAND flash for Spansion in its factories.

Each company will separately market products for their customers, they said in a joint statement.

"The alliance with Spansion and the licensing of Spansion NAND IP enable Elpida to develop advanced NAND products which, when combined with our leading DRAM products, allows us to better service markets including cellular handsets and digital consumer," said Yukio Sakamoto, president and CEO of Elpida, in a statement.

Elpida currently only sells DRAM-related products, including DRAM for PCs and servers as well as graphics DRAM and mobile DRAM. The addition of NAND flash memory will expand its range of products into one of the fastest growing segments of the memory chip industry.

NAND flash memory is used for data storage in a range of devices, including iPads, iPods, iPhones and SSDs (solid state drives), which aim to replace HDDs in PCs and servers.

The market is rife with competition. The major players in the global NAND flash market, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba, together supply nearly three-fourths of the world's NAND flash.

The industry can also quickly swing from boom to bust. Spansion, for example, recently emerged from bankruptcy after the flash memory market collapsed in late 2008 amid global recession.

The new deal with Elpida will help lower Spansion's expenditures on new factory equipment and research and development, the companies said.

Chinese-language newspapers in Taiwan report that Elpida also plans to invest in a flash memory research center in Taiwan, but Elpida did not respond to questions about the reports. The company maintains relationships with several Taiwanese chip makers, including Powerchip Technology and Taiwan Memory Co.

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