Peter Clarke /EETimes
(02/07/2008 8:19 AM EST)
LONDON — The press release trumpets the delivery of samples of phase-change
memory on Wednesday (Feb. 6) as a major success. But it begs the question:
"Why is Intel running more than six months late with its delivery of
Of course on one level the arrival of phase-change memory, a significantly
different memory type to what has gone before, is a success. And for a
memory that has been meant to be coming for 30 years what s six months
Wednesday's press release from Intel said: "Intel Corporation and
STMicroelectronics reached a key industry milestone today as they began
shipping prototype samples of a future product using a new, innovative
memory technology called Phase Change Memory (PCM). The prototypes are the
first functional silicon to be delivered to customers for evaluation,
bringing the technology one step closer to adoption."
The press release went on to do Intel s usual marketing thing of giving the
design a name, in this case Alverstone. Alverstone is a 128Mb device built
on 90-nm and is intended to allow memory customers to evaluate PCM features,
allowing cellular and embedded customers to learn more about PCM and how it
can be incorporated into their future system designs, the press release
But notice the use of the word today. Intel is saying that Intel and ST didn
t ship functional prototype samples of phase-change memory before Wednesday.
Wind back the clock nearly a year. In March 2007 Intel organized a
teleconference in which it told listeners that it was preparing to sample a
90-nm 128-Mbit phase change memory to customers in the first half of 2007.
When asked when the phase-change memory would go into mass production Ed
Doller, then chief technology officer of the flash memory group at Intel,
said: "We're hoping we can see production by the end of the year, but that
depends on the customers."
Doller is now chief technology officer-designate of Numonyx, the flash
memory company being formed by the sell-off of the memory groups within
STMicroelectronics and Intel. And that may be clue — because the formation
of Numonyx is running about, you guessed it, six months late.
Intel and STMicroelectronics started working together on PCM in 2003.
Development of the technology is due to be turned over to Numonyx. In
December 2007 Intel, Francisco Partners and STMicroelectronics announced
they had delayed the closing of the deal to form Numonyx to March 28, 2008.
The original deadline for the memory venture was supposedly Jan. 1, 2008,
analysts said. At that time, Numonyx was supposed to be a full-fledged and
independent company, they added. The delay stemmed from having to revise
financing after banks committed to about half the loan amount as originally
So perhaps there is not much point in sampling the phase-change memory until
you have a manufacturing, sales and marketing organization in place to
follow up and deliver the same chips in volume? Although I would have
thought Intel and ST would want to get the samples out as quickly as
possible to try and create some demand and speed up the time-to-money. But
certainly there is little point in trumpeting the fact that you are sampling
until you are sure there is going to be an operation to benefit from the