SUN VALLEY, IDADO Amid concerns about memory pricing and growing inventories, Micron Technology Corp. Friday (Feb. 9) claimed that it has regained the technical lead in NAND flash by developing a 25-nm device.
The 25-nm device is a NAND structure that has been devised in the lab, said Steve Appleton, president, chief executive and chairman of Micron (Boise, Idaho). ''It's still in development,'' Appleton said in an interview at an analyst event here.
Micron did not elaborate on the technical details of the structure or how the device was made. The company showed a photo of the device at the event to prove that NAND can scale, said Mark Durcan, chief operating officer at Micron, in an interview.
''I showed this photo to let people know that we're not done at 50-nm,'' he said, adding that the introduction of a 25-nm device is at least three years away.
Still, Hynix, Toshiba, Samsung and the Micron-Intel duo are racing each for the technical lead and bragging rights in the NAND sector. Last year, Micron, along with its flash partner, Intel Corp., rolled out a 4-gigabit part based on a 50-nm process. At the time, Micron and Intel claimed to have taken the technical lead in terms of process technology in the NAND market.
But shortly after the announcement, rival Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. struck back. Seeking to regain the technical lead in NAND flash, Samsung in September developed the industry's first 32-Gbit NAND flash memory device, based on 40-nm design rules and the company's proprietary Charge Trap Flash (CTF) architecture. The technology features a high-k dielectrics technology, it was noted.
At present, though, the NAND scaling race is a moot point. Prices for NAND flash memory chips are projected to crater this year, tumbling by a whopping 65 percent and prompting whispers that this once high-margin technology could soon become a nearly free commodity.
The NAND market is in the midst of a seasonal slowdown, Appleton said. ''The NAND market is under pressure,'' he said.
On another front, some DRAM makers claimed that prices have dropped by 30 percent since the beginning of this year. Dropping hints about a slight rebound in the sector, Appleton said that Micron has only seen a 10 percent decline in DRAM prices this year. ''That's not catastrophic,'' he said.
Another worry is a seasonal lull in wireless, which has impacted Freescale, TI, Spansion, as well as Micron. The problem has created excess inventories in the channels, according to Micron executives.
But overall, the sky is not falling on semiconductors, he said. ''We think '07 will be a decent year,'' he said. ''The economy is doing pretty good.''