Intel could be dropping NOR flash business, analyst suggests

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Scottsdale (AZ) – Once the leading NOR flash manufacturer, Intel may actually be on its way out of building this type of flash memory - and favor the faster growing NAND flash type instead.

To many industry watchers this move would not come completely unexpected as Intel recently has been taking substantial investments in its NAND flash joint venture with Micron, IMFT.

Intel has been one of the initial manufacturers of NOR flash memory and led the segment for several years. In 2006, Spansion displaced Intel as the world’s largest NOR flash supplier: Intel’s revenues declined by about 10% year over year, while Spansion grew its revenues by 25%, mainly due to huge flash demand in the cellphone industry.

NOR, however, a flash type that is mostly used for storing operating systems (in contrast to the data storing NAND type), has seen slower growth over the past month than NAND, which makes its way into more and more applications – such as chips that are integrated in motherboards or chips that are combined into solid state disk drives.

“With NAND and NOR, Intel is participating in two businesses that are not closely aligned with its core strengths, and may spin these businesses out at a later date,” said Jim McGregor, an In-Stat analyst, in a statement. “Although both the NAND and NOR businesses are expected to grow, In-Stat sees NAND as the higher-growth market, and believes that NOR’s more moderate growth may not keep the interest of Intel’s upper management.”
 
Intel’s joint venture with Micron has been founded in November 2005 and is supplying NAND flash chips to third party companies, such as Apple, but is expected to cover Intel’s own flash demand, which, for example includes “Robson” flash cache technology, which recently has been renamed to “Turbo Memory.”