Premium flash devices can balance volatile flash business, Samsung says

San Jose (CA) - NAND Flash memory unit shipments are still growing on a rapid pace, but increased competition and other market pressures are wiping out profit margins. Companies such as Sandisk are feeling the heat right now and have begun adjusting their business to the cut-throat environment.

However, larger manufacturers such as Samsung, which has been dominating the NAND Flash segment, have begun balancing their flash business with premium flash devices that are offering certain benefits for some extra cash. Samsung appears to be especially successful in this segment and recently said that it produced more than 117 million 512 Mb OneNAND flash fusion memory devices in 2006.

OneNAND chips promise higher performance - foremost higher data read speeds - which allows hardware designers to replace separate NOR and NAND Flash chips with one NAND device. NOR flash offers higher read speeds than NAND and is often used to store software such as an operating system ; in contrast, NAND is faster at data write operations, which is why this type is typically used for memory cards.

A Samsung representative told TG Daily that hardware manufacturers are happy to spend a little extra cash on premium NAND flash for products such as digital cameras, set top boxes or cell phones in exchange for more performance and potential space savings. In some cases, the bill of materials may even be the same, as a NOR flash chip can be dropped from hardware designs.

Future applications of premium NAND flash chips will include hybrid hard drives as well as solid state disk drives based on flash.

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