"It's the old chicken and egg: They need volume to drive costs down, but the memory business is extremely cost-driven, so the price has got to be low to get high volumes," said Handy.
MRAM densities are currently at the 4-Mbit level, but since Freescale's MRAM is fabricated at the 180-nanometer node today, it expects to scale to higher densities at more advanced nodes. MRAM's main competitor today is ferroelectric RAM (FRAM), which is also at 4 Mbit densities, by virtue of a 130-nm process developed by Texas Instruments Inc. (Dallas) with Ramtron (Colorado, Springs, Colo.). MRAM does not compete directly with such other nonvolatiles as 1-Gbit flash memories and 128-Mbit PRAM, because their write times are slower and their erase cycles are not unlimited.
Newer alternatives that offer fast write and unlimited erase times include the nonvolatile SRAM (nvSRAM) being developed by Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (San Jose, Calif.) and Simtek (Colorado Springs). But such technologies are less mature and more expensive today than MRAM.