In fact here we are talking about increasing the capacity of the chips designed on the already exiting architectures. However, the memory companies do not stop developing absolutely new technologies as well. In particular, in early February we suddenly saw Ovonyx Company re-emerge in the market. This company is now run by the former Micron top executive Tyler Lowrey. As far as I remember, the last time we heard from them, was about 5 years ago, when Intel invested in this company quite a significant amount of money. At that time Ovonyx was working on nonvolatile memory technology based on the phase change effect (the amorphous or crystal state of the substance, which can change if necessary, corresponds to the 0 or 1 value of the cell), and Intel considered it pretty promising in those days. They actually licensed the ovonic unified memory technology. A little later the same was done by STMicroelectronics.
Yesrs have passed since then, and what do we hear now? No, this is not about the new products announcement. In February Elpida announced that they had licensed ovonic unified memory technology in order to finish its development, although they cannot yet point out any commercial projects based on it. So, it still looks like an exciting affair to me, but maybe Elpida knows something that we don’t?
Philips didn’t license OUM, but suggested using plastic for the nonvolatile memory, to be more exact – organic field-effect transistors based on it. The interesting thing is that Intel has already managed to step in here too, as they have been working on the same project together with the Norwegian Opticom, though unsuccessfully. And Philips seems to have found a way to success, but it will definitely take time before they will be able to harvest the fruit: it is still too early to speak of any commercial value of plastic memory like that.
Toshiba decided not to experiment with any new materials and thus appear closer to the counter than anybody else out there: in February they introduced 128Mbit chip based on floating-body effect. Namely, they took advantage of the side effect that prevented further speed increase of the transistors to create very economical memory. Intel has been trying to combat this effect in its processors for a long time already, and Toshiba viewed it from a different prospective and found out that it could be very efficient. So, they managed to make it work for them and are targeting for use in built-in electronics.
However, you needn’t invent anything brand new to earn good money. On the contrary, you’d better claim your rights for the new stuff, and the manufacturers will undoubtedly give up fighting after a while and will pay. Rambus was the first one to follow this strategy. Now Mosaid is enjoying the same success. The trial started in January against Hynix ended in piece in February already. The Koreans, however, had to fulfill Mosaid’s terms and license “their” technologies. Before that Samsung had to do exactly the same thing.