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Infineon, still in DRAM business, looks to recover its memory

Posted: 28 Jun 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dram? magnetoresistive? ram?

Reaffirming its commitment to the memory business, Infineon Technologies AG flew in reporters from around the world to Dresden Tuesday, June 22, 2004 to highlight the breadth of its next-generation memory technology development - including the world's first 16Mb magnetoresistive RAM it recently developed with IBM.

Wilhelm Beinvogl, Infineon's CEO for the memory products business group, listed MRAM, ferroelectric, conductive-bridging, phase-change RAM and organic RAM as emerging nonvolatile memories. Although many are still in an early development phase, Infineon is apparently intent on ensuring its future with alternative memory technology.

In the quest for a universal memory that combines nonvolatility with high-speed and high-write endurance, Infineon and other big memory producers see no choice but to dabble in "several tempting alternatives," acknowledged Beinvogl. "There is no simple [industry] consensus on its choice," he added.

Sherry Garber, SVP at Semico Resarch Corp., said Infineon's press event boiled down to one key message: "Infineon is still in the DRAM business."

Infineon is consolidating all its next-generation DRAM and flash memory technology development at its Memory Development Center here, next to its 200mm and 300mm fabs.

Despite the DRAM business' low-margins and cyclical nature, Infineon "can't get out of memory business unless they become a non-entity semiconductor" maker, said Bob Marinar, managing director, VLSI Research Europe. Memory products are generating 40 percent of Infineon's revenue, Marinar said.

Infineon's Beinvogl declined to provide a revenue timetable for any of the emerging memory technologies. Nor did he disclose how much it is investing in alternative memory technology development. However, Beinvogl told EE Times that of all research spending on memory technology, Infineon is committing 5 to 10 percent to emerging memory technologies.

Among the new memory technologies Infineon is exploring, MRAM has advanced the furthest in terms of product development. The IBM-Infineon 16Mb MRAM prototype is billed as the highest-density, smallest in cell size and simplest process yet for a multimegabit MRAM. The partners presented a technical paper on the MRAM prototype at the VLSI Technology Symposium last week in Honolulu.

The alliance seeks to bring its MRAM prototype from experimental status to preproduction. Joint development of the MRAM technology has been relocated from an IBM fab in East Fishkill, N.Y., to Altis Semiconductor in Corbeil Essones, France.

Beinvogl acknowledged that the MRAM development remains in an early stage, noting that cost/bit/cell size remains too high. For MRAM to become a practical memory technology, further debugging, yield improvement and much smaller cell size must be achieved within the next two years, he said.

Those challenges alone could keep Infineon's memory operations busy for years, industry watchers said.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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