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Toshiba pulls out of DRAM project

The Japanese company recalls engineers from its joint memory chip project with IBM, Siemens, and Motorola.

Toshiba has recalled engineers from its joint memory chip project with IBM (IBM), Siemens, and Motorola (MOT).

The roughly 70 engineers pulled were from a memory chip project at an IBM research and development center in East Fishkill, New York, according to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's largest business daily.

Three semiconductor development alliances have been based at the IBM research center, including a 64-megabit DRAM development alliance with Siemens, a "shrink" 64-megabit DRAM memory chip alliance with Siemens and Toshiba, and a 256-megabit DRAM chip alliance with Siemens, Toshiba, and Motorola.

Toshiba is withdrawing the engineers from the 256-megabit DRAM project, which was launched back in 1993. The four companies have been collaborating on development of future 256-megabit DRAM memory chips because the development costs for these next-generation memory chips are too great for any one company to shoulder.

But Toshiba is now afraid the project "could hamper its attempts to maintain a technology lead in Japan" where most of its production facilities are located. The company is therefore withdrawing the engineers, according to the report.

Currently, 16-megabit DRAM memory chips are widely used in personal computers. The next-generation 64-megabit chips will hit the market slowly over the next couple of years. Memory chips that can hold 256 megabits of data are not expected to be available commercially until the end of the century.

Toshiba intends to maintain the relationship with the three other companies by co-developing 1-gigabit DRAM technology, the report added.