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Micron flash chip looks to undercut Intel

The company begins wooing manufacturers with samples of its new Q-Flash chip, which is similar to the design of Intel's high-end StrataFlash.

Chipmaker Micron Technology has taken another step in its effort to challenge Intel in the market for high-end flash memory, releasing samples of its new Q-Flash chips to manufacturers Wednesday.

The design of Q-Flash is similar to that of Intel's StrataFlash and lets chips read data much faster than ordinary flash chips can. Micron is positioning the chips as an alternative to StrataFlash, which dominates the market for high-performance flash chips.

Flash memory is used in devices such as handheld computers and cell phones to store applications and data. Unlike the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) used in PCs, flash memory retains data when power is shut off.

Micron already makes standard and low-power flash chips for consumer devices and other uses. Q-Flash will be targeted at more demanding applications such as networking equipment.

Alan Niebel, chief executive of Web-Feet Research, said Micron will have to work hard to woo customers away from Intel.

"You need something that's going to be able to differentiate you from the others, which is fast read-speed," Niebel said. "Initially, though, it's going to mainly be about price...They're trying to follow in the wake Intel has made opening up this market, so they'll keep the prices low and look to get manufacturers to try them as a second source."

Both companies also face a challenge from Toshiba and SanDisk, which are developing a different type of high-speed flash design.

Micron said in a statement that it is now sending samples of 32-megabit Q-Flash chips to manufacturers, with 64-megabit chips set to go out in the next quarter.