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Bit players

Spansion looks to stand out from the herd with 8bit per cell flash. By Paul Dempsey.

Last month, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Fujitsu formally filed the initial public offering (IPO) document that will spin out Spansion, their joint NOR flash memory business.
Although only a third of the stock will be floated, the anticipated proceeds of $561million, along with debts of $193m, suggest Spansion will be expected to make its own way.
This, in turn, raises the question of how hungry investors will be for a ‘pure play’ memory company, even one with sales of more than $2billion. For most of Wall Street, flash carries much the same stigma as dram: commoditisation; price volatility; and – given the presence of competitors such as Intel and Samsung – cut throat competition.
In response, Spansion’s strategy is based on differentiating itself from the herd in terms of target market, manufacturing roadmap and innovation.
“The flash business has, essentially, two categories,” says Spansion’s ceo Bertrand Cambrou. “One is detachable flash cards; the other is embedded flash – that is, in serial port, automotive and consumer.”
Cambrou believes the increased functionality now being demanded in that second area – mobile phones in particular – has created ‘a flash wave’. Certainly, a further suggestion is this market segment is not yet so badly commoditised – or, perhaps more precisely, there are ways in which innovation can be brought to bear to resist that process.

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Paul Dempsey

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