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Memory: The Next Frontier

Posted on Tuesday, Aug 2nd 2005

I recently read an article on the market opportunity of Universal Memory: ‘Universal’ memory market to hit $75 billion in 2019, says iSuppli

$75 Billion sounds like a very large number, of the scale that we don’t see often any more in the venture circles …

“There is no single semiconductor memory technology today that has all the desired attributes, which on top of speed, density and non-volatility include: low-cost of manufacture, low switching energy and scalability to nanometer-scale dimension.

Products in various stages of commercialization that include at least some of the attributes include: Ovonic Unified Memory (OUM), Magneto-Resistive RAM (MRAM), Ferroelectric RAM (FRAM) and Nanotube RAM (NRAM), iSuppli said. But the rewards for a winning technology are likely to be immense with the memory market set to double from $46.8 billion posted in 2004 to $95.4 billion by 2019, iSuppli said.”

The assumption is, whoever will crack this code will pretty much pick up 80% of the memory market.

Cypress, Freescale, IBM and Infineon have MRAM initiatives at various stages on maturity. A smaller company called NVE (NVEC) develops and sells devices using “spintronics,” a nanotechnology which utilizes electron spin rather than electron charge to acquire, store and transmit information. NVE is a licensor of spintronic MRAM, and lists Motorola, Cypress and Agilent as licensees.

Another small company Micromem has focused the last 5 years on the development of an MRAM memory. The memory will be suitable for various applications including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. The company’s first market objective will be the RFID sector.

Nantero, which focuses on NRAM describes its vision: NRAM will be considerably faster and denser than DRAM, have substantially lower power consumption than DRAM or flash, be as portable as flash memory, and be highly resistant to environmental forces (heat, cold, magnetism). And as a nonvolatile chip, it will provide permanent data storage even without power. Possible uses include the enabling of instant-on computers, which boot and reboot instantly, as well as high-density portable memory – MP3 players with 1000s of songs, PDAs with 10 gigabytes of memory, high-speed network servers and much more.

By the way, were talking of times long after Bill Gates made his famous pronouncement, that nobody would ever need more than 640 KB of RAM. It seems, there is no end to the ever-increasing memory needs of our generation!

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