Chips: VLSI and Macronix Team Up for System-on-a-Chip Embedded Flash Memory Technology; On-Chip Non-Volatile Memory Targets Wireless Communications, Handheld Computing End Products

Chips: VLSI and Macronix Team Up for System-on-a-Chip Embedded Flash Memory Technology; On-Chip Non-Volatile Memory Targets Wireless Communications, Handheld Computing End Products

VLSI Technology, Inc., a leader in system-on-a-chip ASIC products, and Macronix International Co. Ltd., of Taiwan, a leading manufacturer of high performance non-volatile memory products, Monday jointly announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperatively develop advanced embedded flash memory process technologies.

The advanced technologies will allow flash memory to be included in system-on-a-chip semiconductor products targeting such applications as wireless communications and handheld computing. This feature allows system designers the flexibility to reprogram the on-chip memory many times for software upgrades, enhancements and bug fixing, thus reducing cost and time to market. Non-volatile flash memory differs from conventional dynamic RAM because they do not erase when power to them shuts off.

Under the agreement, the joint development of the embedded flash process technology will be done on Macronix’s 8-inch, 0.15-micron process generation fab in Hsin Chu, Taiwan, as will initial manufacturing of products for both companies that incorporate the embedded flash memory. Both companies will contribute manpower and technology to the advanced process development. After this advanced feature is incorporated in more VLSI products, the embedded flash process and manufacturing capability will be established at VLSI’s San Antonio Texas, wafer fabrication facility.

As an additional element in the memorandum, the parties will define ways to cooperate in system-on-a-chip products for specific application and market areas, leveraging each other’s strength in geographic regions, system application know-how, and worldwide resources.

Alfred J. Stein, VLSI chairman and CEO commented: “Working together Macronix and VLSI can develop a new flash memory process technology that will benefit both our companies and our customers. Embedded flash technology will give both of us a significant competitive edge in mobile system-on-a-chip design projects. Through this agreement, VLSI is adding another important architectural element — embedded flash memory — to our system-on-a-chip design and delivery value chain. The additional possibility of global cooperation between the two companies, in selected applications, gives even more opportunities to serve our customers.”

“There is an emerging world-wide demand for programmable processors with embedded flash memory,” said Miin Wu, president, Macronix International Corp., Ltd. “The combination of Macronix’s flash memory expertise and VLSI’s leadership in wireless communication makes a powerful team. With the joint partnership, Macronix has achieved one more giant step toward being a viable system-on-a-chip solution provider.”

Defining System-on-a-Chip The term “system-on-a-chip” has become one of the most widely used terms in the semiconductor industry. A true system-on-a-chip integrates all the subsystems required by an end product — microprocessing, analog, glue logic, power management and memory. Since no two end products are exactly alike, neither are any two systems-on-a-chip. So, system-on-a-chip products will be custom ICs, incorporating functions needed for specific applications and specific customers. The most effective suppliers of such products will be those with a complete technology offering, including a broad range of IP for specific applications, the ability to develop complex custom ASICs, and process technologies that incorporate logic, both digital and analog, and memory on chip.

Adding flash memory to their menu of custom IC subsystem offerings extends each company’s ability to integrate both volatile static RAM and non-volatile flash RAM elements on its products. In particular, flash RAM will prove particularly useful in ICs for wireless communications, battery powered computing and data security applications. Furthermore, the VLSI-Macronix arrangement will take flash RAM into industry leading deep submicron process technology. VLSI currently offers 0.25-micron and 0.2-micron drawn gate length process technologies and is in development of a 0.15-micron process technology generation with expected completion in 1999.

Macronix International Co., Ltd., the 7th largest non-volatile memory supplier in the world, designs, manufactures and markets Flash, EPROM, Mask ROM and logic products for the communications, consumer and computer markets. The company is based in Hsin-Chu, Taiwan, with 1997 revenues of $325 million. FMI: (408)451-0876 or

VLSI Technology, Inc. designs and manufactures custom and semicustom integrated circuits for leading firms in the wireless communications, networking, consumer digital entertainment and computing markets. VLSI’s value proposition is based on full-service customer support, deep libraries of vertical market-focused IC intellectual property, unparalleled custom circuit design expertise enabled through the Velocity Rapid Silicon Prototyping design style, and the world’s most flexible and cost-efficient custom circuit manufacturing facilities. The company is based in San Jose, California, with 1997 revenues from continuing operations of $712.7 million, and approximately 2,200 employees worldwide. FMI:

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