Having established itself as a major supplier in the microcontroller market over the past decade by pioneering the use of one-time-programmable (OTP) devices, Microchip Technology Inc. today hopes to usher in a new era with devices based on a new process technology the company believes will provide the advantages of flash memory at OTP prices.
"We're trying to move flash into mainstream applications," said Greg Robinson, product marketing manager at Microchip in Chandler, Ariz. "We changed the entire paradigm of the 8-bit market with OTPs ... and now with our new cell we can bring flash into consumer types of applications as we eliminate the traditional flash disadvantages of cost and programming time."
Microchip will debut the new PMOS Electrically Erasable Cell (PEEC) flash technology and its first 14 standard products based on the process at the Embedded System Conference in Boston this week.
The PEEC process allows Microchip to provide microcontrollers priced equal to, or as much as 15% less, than equivalent OTP devices, with programming times in seconds compared to minutes, at reduced overall power dissipation and with memory blocks up to 128 Kbytes, Robinson said.
"Flash in many ways is the hottest thing in the market these days," said Tom Starnes, an analyst at Data-quest Inc. in Austin, Texas. "If you can come up with devices that are extremely small, and priced reasonably on par with OTP, then it's a no-brainer for customers to use, assuming they can achieve manufacturability."
Will Strauss, an analyst at Forward Concepts Co., Tempe, Ariz., said there are an increasing number of applications that really require flash. "This [introduction] shows that Microchip hasn't stopped innovating in this down market. They've stayed the course and are continuing development," he said.
Samples of initial devices based on the PEEC process will be available in November, with full production scheduled for March 2002. The first devices range in price from $3.58 to $4.22 in quantities of 10,000.