SAN JOSE (AP) — Chipmakers Intel and Micron Technologies say they’ve made a major breakthrough by creating a new kind of memory chip that’s a thousand times faster than the “flash” memory now used in smartphones, tablets and high-end laptop computers.
Experts say the new 3D XPoint (pronounced “cross point”) technology has enormous potential, but some caution that it won’t be showing up in consumer products for some time.
So-called “flash” memory is already faster than the spinning disk drives that are still used in many desktop and laptop computers. The new memory, developed jointly by Intel and Micron, uses a three-dimensional chip design that lets computers store and retrieve individual bits of data far more quickly than with flash.
The companies said the new technology also has ten times the storage capacity of another format, known as DRAM.
or dynamic random access memory, which can be faster but more expensive than flash. In another benefit, they said, 3D XPoint doesn’t require a constant flow of power, while DRAM does.
Intel and Micron say the new technology can help big organizations analyze vast quantities of data, as well as improve the performance of PCs and other consumer devices.
But tech analyst Martin Reynolds of the Gartner research firm cautioned that other breakthroughs in memory technology have stalled because of technical and economic hurdles.
Big companies like Google or Facebook will be eager to test the new memory in their data centers, Reynolds predicted. But he said flash memory should remain the dominant technology in consumer devices “for some time.