Samsung's Kang Says Memory New Driver Of Consumer Electronics

Kang cites the "remarkable growth" in memory density, and in flash memory, that in particular, have made possible the explosion of digital media devices.

Ron Wilson, Contributor

October 14, 2005

2 Min Read

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Memory chips are overtaking microprocessors as the key technology driver for consumer electonics, according to a Samsung executive.

Jon Kang, senior vice president of technical marketing at Samsung Semiconductor, told the Denali MemCon conference here Thursday (Oct. 13) that "we are no longer in a CPU-driven industry. Memory is the key to the mobile-consumer products revolution."

Kang said the remarkable growth in memory density, and in flash memory, in particular, have made possible the explosion of digital media devices driving current electronics growth. Flash memory, Kang said, has been doubling in bit density every year, and may continue to. This has made possible bit densities in even tiny devices that would have required a hard-disk drive only a few years ago.

"The memory content of these consumer devices is growing beyond even our expectations," Kang said. By 2007, Kang projected, "handsets alone will consume as many memory bits as the desktop computer market."

The memory market is not only growing, Kang argued, but it is shifting away from the commodity bulk memory parts that characterize the PC market. Kang described the development of custom memory chips for embedded applications such as Samsung's OneNAND, a chip that combines NAND flash and SRAM to meet the needs of devices like handsets or media players.

While admitting that the cost per-bit-difference was too high for NAND flash to replace disk drives of 40 GBytes or more, Kang described a hybrid drive, combining a NAND flash chip with a conventional mobile drive. The combination, he said, permitted a substantial reduction in the duty cycle of the drive, lowering energy drain and increasing reliability, while at the same time greatly speeding operations such as boot up.

For both technical and commercial reasons, Kang said multi-stack packaged, which combines two stacks of dice, each on its own substrate, will quickly dominate the handset market. One of the stacks, he said, would include a baseband-system SoC; the other would include a stack of memory dice.

Kang also said that the march of CMOS NAND flash would continue, with a 16-Gbit part based on 50-nm technology due out in 2007.

Beyond that, perhaps a newer nonvolatile memory technology could take over. But Kang warned that so far none had shown the ability to overtake flash in density or cost, at least through 2008. "So what is beyond flash?" Kang asked rhetorically. "My retirement."

Kang previously warned that surging consumer-driven demand for memory could lead to memory shortages.

The same day that Kang spoke, Samsung and its U.S. semiconductor unit pleaded guilty in connection with a federal probe of price fixing in the U.S. DRAM market.

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