IBM is working with a German memory specialist to develop technology that could give mobile phones a thousand hours of battery life and dramatically speed up the time PCs take to switch on.
Called magnetic random access memory (MRam), the technology is being developed by IBM and Infineon Technologies. MRam uses magnetic rather than electronic charges to store bits of data, and the partners are targeting the DRam market. IBM and Infineon plan to launch the technology in 2004.
MRam combines existing memory techniques, such as the high speed of static Ram (SRam), with the storage capacity and low cost of Dram, and the non-volatility of Flash memory.
Key to MRam is its non-volatility feature. Both DRam and SRam require a constant flow of electrical power to retain stored data, and memory is lost when power is cut off.
Most computers work off software stored in memory, and when the unit is turned on the software is copied from the hard disk so the user can access it quickly. By using MRam, computers and other devices would work like televisions and radios, which still 'run' even though the power has been switched off.
MRam will save battery power and extend usable battery life, since it will not require constant electrical power to keep data intact, according to the developers.
IBM confirmed that it will spend tens of millions of dollars developing the technology, although no specific figures were disclosed. Both companies will dedicate a total of 80 engineers to the project.
Fred Zieber, an analyst with Pathfinder Research, said IBM and Infineon are not the only companies creating MRam technologies.
"The stakes are huge, with players like Micron, Intel, AMD and others, which are both [active] in the DRam market and looking to MRam in the future. The competition to bring this new technology to market will be fierce," he said.
But Zieber added that the Flash memory market will most likely to feel the full impact of MRam before it affects DRam.
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