Intel paid Micron Technology $230 million for NAND flash memory designs and certain related technologies, as well as a perpetual licence to use and modify the designs, Micron said on Monday.

Intel revealed plans for flash-powered laptops at its developer forum in March.

The deal is related to the joint-venture company the two chip makers established last year, IM Flash Technologies. The new company is aimed at putting Intel and Micron in the thick of the fastest growing segment of the chip industry, the $13 billion NAND flash memory business. The facility officially opened in January.

The industry is currently dominated by Samsung Electronics and Toshiba. Flash memory chips have gained popularity because they retain data even after power has been shut off, making them ideal for storage cards used in digital cameras and mobile phones, as well as digital music players.

Micron venture a long deal

The new venture will operate out of Micron-owned and operated facilities for the next decade, Micron said. IM Flash has currently leased half of Micron's chip factory in Virginia. It will buy and install its own production equipment, but the machinery will be operated and maintained by Micron. The company will charge IM Flash a fee for operating and maintaining the equipment, and sell chips to IM Flash "at prices equal to the company's variable cost to manufacture", Micron said.

Micron will also provide IM Flash with chips for a five-year period.

Micron is one of the world's largest DRAM (dynamic RAM) makers. Micron joined with Intel last year to form IM Flash in order to break into the fast-moving NAND flash memory chip market. At the time the joint venture was announced, the companies also revealed their first major customer, Apple.

Apple deal number one

The maker of the world's most-popular digital music player, the iPod, entered into a supply agreement with IM Flash that extends until December 31, 2010. Apple made a prepayment of $250 million to the company during the first three months of this year, Micron said.

The new venture did little to boost Micron during its fiscal second quarter, which ended March 2, 2006. The company's sales declined to $1.2 billion from $1.3 billion during the same period a year ago. But it did post a gain in its net profit, which rose to $193 million from $117.9 million last year.

The company blamed falling prices for DRAM memory chips for its sales decline, but was able to offset part of the fall by reducing production costs and making more higher margin chips, including image sensors for digital cameras.