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A flash of memory at Samsung

Chipmaker takes aim at new sector  PLAY AUDIO

Oct 10,2003
Samsung Group will shift its focus to flash memory chips and is taking aim at market leadership in that sector, the group announced after a semiconductor strategy meeting yesterday. Samsung lags behind Intel Corp., the largest manufacturer of flash memory chips, although it is the biggest producer of dynamic random access and static random access memory chips. Unlike the case in the DRAM market, where chips are a commodity and prices rise and fall, the flash memory chip market has proven its potential for gradual increases in price of the chips. Flash memory chips, which retain data when a power source is disconnected, are faster in operation and consume less electricity, are widely used for mobile phones, digital camera and portable music players, all rapidly growing markets. “The flash memory market will be a gold mine for the next 10 years,” a Samsung official said. Flash memory chips are divided into two types, NAND and NOR chips. The NAND type can store more data per unit size of the chip, but the NOR types are faster. Samsung’s expertise is in the NAND variety, and it is the market share leader there. It ranks eighth, however, in the NOR chip market. That is a problem for the firm, because the NOR chips outsell the type Samsung is strongest in by a margin of about 7 to 3. In total, Samsung has captured 12 percent of the flash memory chip market, while Intel has 20 percent. Due to its faster data processing speed, NOR chips are widely used in mobile telephones; NAND chips predominate in most other information-technology products. Samsung said it was taking aim at the NOR flash memory market in addition to its NAND technology development. Lee Kun-hee, Samsung Group’s chairman, waved the national flag at the meeting, saying that if it became the leading flash memory chip producer, it could contribute to overcoming Korea’s recent economic difficulties. Samsung recently announced the development of a 4-gigabit NAND flash memory chip, the first of that size in the market. The capacity of the chip was made possible in part by the use of 70-nanometer circuit wires ― that’s 70 billionths of a meter in width. That technology, as well, is something no other chip producer has yet used, although the lead will probably not last long in the competitive marketplace. Intel announced Tuesday that it would introduce a 1-gigabit NOR flash memory chip next week. The U.S. chipmaker said the new chips would allow digital video cameras to store up to two hours of video. Samsung is now supplying NOR flash memory chips to Nokia of Finland, the biggest handset producer in the world. Stock analysts welcomed the new Samsung focus, noting that the dynamic random-access memory market is saturated. by Chung Sun-gu


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