Magnetoresistive RAM - MRAM
Semiconductor giant Freescale has started selling the next generation of memory, called MRAM, becoming the first company to produce the technology with potential useability in many of today's upcoming devices.
MRAM stands for magnetoresistive random access memory and it differs from conventional RAM in that information is stored using magnetic properties, instead of an electronic charge. This means the chips can store information once the power has been switched off.
The RAM is capable of read/write times of only 35-nanoseconds as opposed to 50-70-ns offered by DRAM. Freescale are currently only selling the units in 4Mbit capacities, though now the ice has been broken the technology should flourish and larger capacities will hopefully soon be on the way.
Analyst Will Strauss from the research firm Forward Concepts said: "This is radically new technology. People have been dabbling in this for years, but nobody has been able to make it in volume."
"This is the most significant memory introduction in this decade."
The technology can challenge both conventional RAM as well as flash memory, a market that has only taken-off over the last few years as more and more people buy memory sticks, MP3 players and portable storage cards. Unlike flash memory MRAM doesn't degrade over time, and has faster read/write times.
Experts also predict that MRAM could one day be used to store whole operating systems, boosting the start-up times of tomorrow's PCs. It seems the perfect candidate to replace today's technology as it is smaller, cheaper and faster than anything on the market at present.
The 4Mbit chips will go on sale for $25 each, and Freescale has announced it already has (unnamed) customers.