Sunday, October 16, 2005

NAND versus NOR in Mobile Devices

EDN offers up a lengthy and thorugh look at the options available for device manufacturers when it comes to picking a memory architecture. The article covers the pros and cons of the four primary flash-memory architectures and advises that designers need to find "the right balance of target market and user, features, unit cost, and design cost for their products."

Joseph Unsworth at Gartner noted that NAND revenue for the first time in its history surpassed NOR revenue and growth will continue as NOR declines. He said, "A NOR-market recovery, if indeed it ever recovers, will be further slowed by hybridized vendors cutting into the high-end NOR market. Certainly one of Intel's biggest competitors today is the NAND flash. Samsung and M-Systems are competing for their business. Intel has to keep NOR flash pricing aggressive ... to make a convincing argument to keep NOR flash in handsets."

Unsworth remarked "that future dominant memory systems will depend largely on when full-featured phones become mainstream, whether NOR vendors can keep up with the density requirements for those phones and still turn a profit, and whether the inevitable use of removable storage will usurp embedded data storage."

"In the next few years most of these phones will be able to play music. That means that removable slot will become imperative to help people move songs and photos between phones and personal computers and printers and to move the songs to their next cell phones," said Unsworth.

He added that "There is a suitable architecture for store-and-download phones, and I think some of the high end and more so the mainstream phones are going to stick with the NOR flash because companies like Intel and Spansion will have more aggressive NOR pricing, and it is going to be accompanied by a removeable slot. That way, if the consumer wants more storage, they can buy it."