Research into the universal-memory concept has led to a number of novel applications, including the so-called instant-on processor. The category generally includes devices ranging from small micro-controllers to full-blown microprocessors and the laptops that contain them.
An interesting area of development associated with the first round of universal memory candidates is the nonvolatile register. A recent article1 by Masahide Kimura, "Zero-standby-power ICs to enter practical use," discusses this technology; as the title suggests, the approach is designed to save the state of a register and, collectively, the state of the logic circuit after power is lost. The article pre- sents examples of logic registers made from nonvolatile memory.
Following a loss of power, intentional or not, the device can be restored to its final state prior to being shut down. Two vendors are developing specific products: Rohm, with FeRAM, and NEC, with MRAM. Toward the end of the article, Kimura discusses the design considerations stemming from the need for high write endurance. That application seems to be a natural fit for nonvolatile register technologies.
Ramtron has also been marketing its State Saver product line for several years. U.S. Patent No. 6,650,158 is aptly titled "Ferroelectric Non-Volatile Logic Elements."