Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., riding the crest of surging NAND flash memory demand, expects to double its NAND revenue this year from $1.1 billion in 2002.
Already claiming to be the world's largest NAND supplier in terms of units and revenue, Samsung also hopes to increase its global market share.
Fellow Korean chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor Inc. also is eyeing the explosive growth in NAND flash demand and said it hopes to break into the market for the first time next year through a partnership with STMicroelectronics N.V.
Jon Kang, executive vice president of Samsung's Device Solution Network, said the mushrooming NAND business is being driven by an appetite for increased data content in multimedia and Web-enabled devices like USB 2.0 disk drives, digital cameras, smart cellular phones, MP3 players, and other handheld devices.
"In 2001, NAND was only 10% of the total flash market by revenue. Our projection is that NAND will be 30% of the flash market this year, and by 2005 NAND and NOR flash will be about the same," Kang said, adding that the 20 Mbytes of memory found in an average cellular phone last year will increase to 200Mbytes by 2007.
Samsung's mobile phone manufacturing division next quarter will release a video-capable phone that will require 1Gbyte of NAND flash, he added.
Kang pointed to the growing use of NAND memory in cell phones as having the potential to assume many of the code execution functions now performed by NOR flash. However, he said Samsung, which engages in limited production of NOR flash, isn't trying to drive NOR out of the cell phone market and maintains that the two architectures will co-exist.
"NOR is a good mem-ory solution, but if you need above 256Mbits, the memory will be NAND," Kang said.
Hynix Semiconductor, meanwhile, plans to jump into the surging NAND flash market by collaborating with ST. Hynix executives said the alliance's first NAND flash will be a 512- Mbit chip slated to begin sampling at the end of the year. Initial production is expected in the first quarter of 2004 at a yet-to-be-designated Hynix fab.
Analysts are generally taking a wait-and-see attitude on the possible impact the Hynix-ST NAND venture might have on the market. Jim Handy, Los Gatos, Calif.-based nonvolatile memory analyst for Semico Research Corp., said that depending on how fast Hynix can ramp up production, the new NAND team could make its presence felt in the market next year.
Samsung and Hynix also are exploring other nonvolatile memory technologies, though none is expected to see the volumes of flash soon.
Samsung, for example, is developing ferroelectric RAM, magnetoresistive RAM, and phase-change RAM. Kang acknowledged that ferroelectric RAM already has some commercial uses, but said it must still compete against the higher density and lower cost of NAND flash.
Another new memory, Rambus Inc.'s next-generation XDR DRAM (code-named Yellowstone), will be produced by Samsung for electronic game consoles. Kang expects Sony Corp.'s next-generation game devices will be among the first to use XDR DRAM, but doesn't foresee PC makers flocking to it.
"Yellowstone right now is a point-to-point [memory] application," he said. "It isn't applicable for PCs unless it is modified from its present form."
Kang was similarly cautious in regard to GDDR3 graphics memory, which has not been standardized but whose use is being promoted by graphics processor vendors such as ATI Technologies Inc.
"We can produce GDDR3, but will wait until it becomes a standard," he said. A JEDEC standard is being drafted for an alternative GDDR2 graphics, and Kang said Samsung will be a large producer of this chip.
In contrast, Hynix predicted GDDR3 will become a major graphics memory product. James Han, the company's senior memory marketing manager, said Hynix will produce both types of graphics memory chips. "We're already sampling GDDR2 now and plan to start sampling GDDR3 in the fourth quarter of this year," he said.
In a related development, Hynix said it is planning to install 300mm-wafer equipment for a pilot line at an advanced fab in Chongju.
"The first silicon from the 300mm pilot line will come in the second half of next year. Hynix still believes that 200- mm fabs are the most cost-effective at the present time," Han said.
Hynix plans to invest $580 million this year in its semiconductor operations, a 50% increase from 2002. The focus is on upgrading existing fabs. A spokesman said half of all chip production is already at a 0.13-micron process node and should increase to 70% by the end of the year.
Samples of chips made with 0.10-micron process technology will be available by the end of the year, with production starting in the second quarter of 2004, the spokesman said.