November 21, 2005 6:58 AM PST

Apple lines up for Intel-Micron flash

Intel and Micron Technology are launching a joint venture to produce NAND flash memory, with Apple Computer prepaying $500 million to secure its place in line for the popular technology, the companies said Monday.

Intel will own 49 percent of the new company, IM Flash Technologies, with the remaining controlling stake held by Micron. Intel and Micron will each initially contribute $1.2 billion to building plants in Idaho, Utah and Virginia, with plans to add another $1.4 billion each over the next three years. The joint venture is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

"The creation of this new company supports Intel's intent to maintain its industry-leading position in nonvolatile memory and enables us to rapidly enter a fast-growing portion of the flash market segment," Paul Otellini, Intel's chief executive, said in a statement.

NAND is widely used in digital cameras, photo-snapping phones and portable music players such as Apple's iPod. And the ever-increasing capacity of NAND flash is prompting some industry players to speculate that it will one day replace bulkier mini-hard drives.

Apple plans to prepay $500 million to Intel and Micron as part of its $1.25 billion commitment to prepay for NAND flash memory to five chipmakers. The other three chipmakers are Hynix Semiconductor, Samsung Electronics and Toshiba. This prepayment over the next three months will translate into securing NAND memory through 2010, Apple said Monday.

Apple plans to use the flash memory in its popular iPod.

"We want to be able to produce as many of our wildly popular iPods as the market demands," Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive, said in a statement.

Apple also is familiar with the problems that can arise from a shortage of components. Six years ago, the computer marker ran short of enough speedy processors for its G4 computers as its supplier faced unexpectedly high demand forthe chips. As a result, Apple shipped less than half of the G4 computers it had originally planned to sell.

In 1999, Apple also paid $100 million to Samsung to ensure a steady supply of iBook display screens.

Under the long-term agreements with the five chip makers, Apple is banking on the continued popularity of its iPod and NAND flash memory.

IM Flash Technologies will produce NAND chips exclusively for the use of Intel and Micron, rather than serve as a foundry for chip designers.

And while the new company is gearing up for an onslaught of NAND business, the memory market is used to boom-and-bust cycles. Apple's long-term contract, however, should help smooth fluctuations in the chip market.

IM Flash Technologies will concentrate on moving to 72nm and 50 nm technology, with initial production slated for early next year.

Dave Baglee, Intel's former Fab 11 manager in New Mexico, and Rod Morgan, Micron's former plant manager in Virginia, will head up the new joint-venture company.


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This is more about computers than you think
More specifically laptops. Just think, Apple comes out with NAND equipped laptops while everyone else is still using HDDs. The batteries in the laptops would last much longer between charges and bootup quicker, also. You have to look at the BIG PICTURE.
Posted by joshhyde (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Highly Unlikely
NAND Memory is not designed to reach the sizes in access of
todays HDD Drives (Not yet anyway) 60 - 250 GB..Its just not
possible. Not only that but the speed at which it transfers is only
6 mb per second at the moment. Toshiba is looking at doubling
that next year to 12. MS and Toshia have ventured to create a
"hybrid" drive that will bake HDD's with one gig of NAND (Cache)
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The other problem is voltage. The typical NAND Arch uses
between 2.5 - 3.6 Volts. Which would render your battery
useless in a matter of an hour or so especially with more
memory. Not to say that that wouldnt be bad a$$ is that did
occur, but the price(high) and the performance(low) would not
prompt any sales.

I've been using a 4 GB Ramdisk card from Gigabyte that does
kindof what you described. You should see Doom 3 and
photoshop after they are installed on this thing. They are
smokin. And the cool thing is, windows picks it up as a second

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Posted by SystemsJunky (409 comments )
Link Flag
I have seen the small 4Gb chip insode of a Nano, and I do not see why not they could make a chip roughly the size of a laptop HDD with a capacity of over 40GB. Once they get thig going and fix up all the minor problems and bugs, as a result we would have lots of fast and efficient storage on new laptops.
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Posted by Roman12 (214 comments )
Link Flag
Apple is hardly an early adapter
"Just think, Apple comes out with NAND equipped laptops while everyone else is still using HDDs"

I remember the time when Apple was still shipping their "top of the line Powerbooks" with 4200rpm drives when many other comapnies were using 5400/7200rpm HDDs in their PC laptops (TOP OF THE LINE). I have no reason to believe Apple will be the first one to adopt NAND chips in their portables.
Posted by indrakanti (90 comments )
Link Flag

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