Intel is developing a flash memory chip with twice the storage density of existing flash memory products.
The news means mobile phones built in 2007 could store twice as much media – images, videos, and music – as they do now.
Intel will achieve the gain by producing the chip on a tiny, 65 nanometre (nm) scale. Compared to standard 90nm flash geometry, this allows designers to store 1Gb of data on a single layer, instead of stacking two chips.
When it ships samples of this 'Capulet' chip to OEMs in the fourth quarter, Intel claims it will be at least six months ahead of rivals Spansion and Samsung.
On that schedule, Intel will launch the product just 12 months after it introduced its predecessor, the 90nm Intel StrataFlash Cellular Memory chip. That product used a 1.8 volt, multilevel cell (MLC) design to support 256Mb or 512Mbt density on a single layer, or 1Gb in stacked dies. The new chip uses that same "M18" architecture, allowing developers to upgrade their phone platforms without changing the software and hardware, said Allen Holmes, director of marketing for Intel's NOR flash group.
NOR flash is a type of storage built from integrated circuits, with no moving parts. As non-volatile memory, it can hold stored data even when the power is out. Designers often choose it for code storage because it allows random data access, with fast data reading and processing. In comparison, they usually picked the similar NAND flash for bulk data storage. But as NOR density increases, it is increasingly used for complex mobile devices, from phones to PDAs, and digital cameras to MP3 players.
Mobile-phone designers will choose the Capulet chip so they can support flashy new features like video, high-resolution photos, and faster startup times, Holmes said.
Analysts warned that 65nm storage will not change the market overnight.
The launch will have more value as a strategic move by Intel than as a sign the rest of the industry will soon follow, according to Richard Doherty, research director for The Envisioneering Group. He added that 65nm flash will initially appeal only to those users demanding 3G-speed video and fast gaming.
In the meantime, Intel's competitors could catch up fast.
"Intel's shift to a 65nm process will help strengthen Intel's competitive position in the mobile phone market. However, Intel will not go unchallenged," said Nicole D'Onofrio, an analyst with Current Analysis.
In fact, Samsung recently announced that it was mass-producing similar flash memory chips, using a 70nm process to provide 1Gb capacity.