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Infineon read-channel supports 2Gbps transfers

Posted: 04 Nov 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:infineon technologies? m9600? read channel ic? hdd read channel ic? hard disk drive?

Infineon Technologies AG announced that it is sampling an HDD read-channel IC capable of transferring data serially at 2Gbps. Data transfer rates are key to linear bit density and thus higher storage capacities, and Infineon said its read-channel is the fastest available today.

The M9600, which is sampling for $4.75, marks something of comeback for Infineon, whose hard drive IC business had dwindled after it missed the transition to 0.18?m CMOS, according to Alex Stuart, senior analyst at International Data Corp.

"We regard that transition as more of a stepping stone than a stumble," said Mike Rampelberg, director of marketing for network and storage products at Infineon. "We were producing a pure CMOS product in 1999. We had made the transition from a 0.25?m class equivalent to the 0.18?m equivalent. We had test vehicles which demonstrated good SNR, but it turned out all the 0.18?m class sockets were filled. That forced us to leapfrog into 0.13?m class."

That led to the M9600 read-channel, which uses a minimum of power and can easily be integrated with hard drive SoC designs to support desktop and mobile storage applications, Rampelberg said. Though the read-channel can be sold as a standalone part, volume markets will utilize it as a block on the same chip with a hard-disk controller and memory buffers, he said.

"It would be interesting to sell 10 million units of a standalone read-channel for $2 a piece," said Rampelberg. "It will be more interesting to sell 40 million units of a $5 SoC."

The company has a big hill to climb, said IDC analyst Stuart. The market's leading suppliers of disk drive ICs in 2001 were, in descending order, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Agere Systems, and IBM Microelectronics, Stuart said.

The market's leading read-channel IC suppliers were Agere Systems, with $156 million in shipments, followed by Marvell Semiconductors, with $75 million in shipments, and IBM Microelectronics, with about $70 million in shipments, according to IDC. Infineon, with only a few million dollars in hard drive IC shipments last year, was barely on the radar.

But the company has design and manufacturing strengths, Stuart said. It has one second-tier customer, Western Digital Corp., and toeholds at two first-tier drivemakers, Seagate Technology and Maxtor Corp. Those relationships will prove critical to Infineon's comeback, Stuart said.

First-tier suppliers are "very interested in our enhanced 0.13?m parts," Rampelberg said.

- Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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