Low cost Alpha and NOR flash on Samsung agenda

Low cost Alpha and NOR flash on Samsung agenda
David Manners in Seoul Samsung Semiconductor is planning two major architectural innovations, a NOR flash family and an Alpha microprocessor variant cheap enough for a PC motherboard. Until now Samsung has made NAND flash – the type originally developed by Toshiba – which is mainly used for mass storage. Earlier this year it brought out a multi-level cell 128Mbit NAND flash. Samsung expects to sell $70m worth of such flash this year and says the market is doubling every year. However, Samsung has also been developing NOR type flash which is used in mobile phones and for storing the BIOS in PCs. “We have a plan to enter the NOR-type flash market in the third quarter of this year,” Eui Yong Chung, director of worldwide marketing at Samsung Semiconductor, told EW. The company will start at the 8Mbit level. A more difficult architectural feat will be producing an Alpha cheap enough to compete for PC slots. “At the moment we’re targeting servers and workstations for the Alpha but in the future we hope Alpha will be in PCs,” said Chung. Will it run x86 software as fast as a Pentium II? “Alpha is currently running at 600MHz – it is much faster than Pentium II. With emulation Alpha is as fast as Intel at running Intel software,” responded Chung. The problem with getting Alpha into PC slots is simply that it has too big a die-size and therefore it is too expensive to compete with Pentium. “Alpha is more expensive than Pentium to make but we hope in the future that will be solved,” said Chung. “It’s not an easy job, which is why we are currently focused on the server and workstation markets.”


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