Sales of dynamic random access memory — the chips that store information in personal computers — have plunged 20 percent in the last year, prompting calls for government-led bailouts in Taiwan, consolidation efforts, and doubts about the ability of Micron Technology (s MU), the last DRAM maker in the U.S., to function without raising more cash. But bailouts and throwing more cash at DRAM players isn’t going to work. The only viable solution is to reduce the number of industry players. Read More about Bailouts Aren’t the Answer to Memory Chipmakers’ Problems
Today Freescale said it would spin out its MRAM business to a consortium of venture investors under the name EverSpin Technologies. Such a move makes sense for Freescale, which doesn’t have the resources to focus on developing a competitor to Flash memory, but is also somewhat of a shame; MRAM has the potential to be a large moneymaker if it can scale.
MRAM is one of many fledgling attempts to create better non-volatile memory that can retain information even after the power is turned off. Like Flash, MRAM could find a home in portable computing devices such as laptops or MP3 players. Compared to Flash, MRAM is faster and requires less power (hello, longer battery life). Freescale made news in 2006 when it introduced a 4 Mb MRAM chip. That doesn’t hold much, but it was the result of a decade of research into the technology.
The creation of EverSpin follows similar memory spinouts, such as Numonyx, set up by Intel and STMicrosystems to research PRAM, and the less research-oriented Infineon from Qimonda. AMD and Fujitsu spun out their Flash memory operations as Spansion. Memory is a commodity business that requires large economies of scale to become profitable. Freescale does need to focus on a few core businesses, but I hope its stake in EverSpin gives it plenty of upside if MRAM becomes a market success story.