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DRAM and SRAM replacements are also incoming, will improve system-on-a-chip solutions

Continuing ahead with its plan to spin-off its core personal computers business and focus solely on business software and hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Comp. (HPQ) faces a high degree of investor skepticism these days.  While some are optimistic about the appointment of former eBay, Inc. (EBAY) chief Meg Whitman to the CEO spot, share prices still hover around relative lows.  In short, HP needs all the good news it can get.

Just such an announcement may have arrived, with HP's announcement that it would be deploying memristor-powered storage devices within a year and a half.

The memristor is a fabled fourth passive two-terminal electronics component, which joins the much better known resistor, capacitor, and inductor.  The memristor, a device whose resistance varies with the direction of current applied, was first formulated in a 1971 paper by University of California, Berkley professor Leon Chua.  It went unimplemented until 2008, when a team at HP labs, led by R. Stanley Williams, created a working prototype.

Now, just three years after that landmark discovery HP appears to be aggressively moving towards commercialization [1][2].   Mr. Williams at the 2011 International Electronics Forum conference in the southern Spanish city of Seville announced that memristor commercial products were now only 18 months away.

He comments, "We’re planning to put a replacement chip on the market to go up against flash within a year and a half and we also intend to have an SSD replacement available in a year and a half.  In 2014 possibly, or certainly by 2015, we will have a competitor for DRAM and then we’ll replace SRAM.  Flash is a done deal, now we’re going after DRAM, and we think we can do two orders of magnitude improvement in terms of switching energy per bit."

HP's thin film memristor process, which creates components at a 5 nm scale, can deposit 500 billion memristors within a single chip layer.  What this means is that layers of memristor non-volatile storage (akin to NAND flash) and memristor RAM can be placed directly atop the CPU and GPU cores in system-on-a-chip designs.  Using faster direct interconnects and scrapping the system bus for anything other than I/O, these future memristor enabled SoCs could deliver drastic battery life and processing power leaps over the hardware currently found in smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

HP memristor
HP was the first to implement the memristor -- a fourth passive circuit element.  Now it looks to be the first to bring that product to market. [Source: Wired via Nature/HP]

Comments Mr. Williams, "We put the non-volatile memory right on top of the processor chip, and, because you’re not shipping data off-chip, that means we get the equivalent of 20 years of Moore’s Law performance improvement.  We’re running hundreds of wafers through the fab.  We’re way ahead of where we thought we would be at this moment in time."

HP currently owns a key patent [U.S. Patent 7443711] on its memristor implementation and the process to build it.  And it has more patents pending.  Mr. Williams says HP's plan is not to return to the components business where it was once a strong player, but rather to license the technology to interested components manufacturers.

He comments, "We're the world’s largest purchaser of DRAM and the second largest buyer of flash and we’re trying to disrupt and re-arrange our supply chain. The plan is to license this technology to anyone who wants it, and we'll teach them how to make it. But you'll have to stand in line, we have a bunch of people queued for it. We're doing this because, frankly, we didn't see a hell of a lot of innovation happening out there."

Android lineup
The next generation of smartphones may use HP's memristor tech to deliver unparalleled speed and battery life. [Source: Voiceable]

Of course, since HP is negotiating the licensing deals, it could potentially broker exclusivity arrangements, giving it first access to the best memristor-enabled SoCs.

According to Mr. Williams, the competition is fierce.  He points out that Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930) is trying to come up with a rival memristor implementation of its own.  He describes, "Samsung has an even larger group working on this than we do."

The arrival of memristor-enabled hardware appears poised to be "the next big thing" in the mobile electronics market over the next five years.  For all its company's struggles, it's important to acknowledge HP Labs' groundbreaking work that's making this advance at last possible after almost four decades.

Source: Electronics Weekly



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( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By Joz on 10/10/11, Rating: 0
RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By Gungel on 10/10/2011 10:13:08 AM , Rating: 5
Production cost of the memristor should be about the same as for DDR memory or NAND. It all depends on how much HP is going to charge for a license. I hope they are not as greedy as Rambus.


RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By retrospooty on 10/10/2011 10:44:12 AM , Rating: 2
"I hope they are not as greedy as Rambus."

Nope, Apple, Sony, and Rambus are the greedy tech trio. The rest are pretty into the low price/marketshare model.


RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By Strunf on 10/10/2011 12:03:02 PM , Rating: 5
Indeed the HP printer cartridge are very low price... HP just like any other company will try to squeeze as much money as possible!


RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By Dr of crap on 10/10/11, Rating: 0
By dbwells on 10/10/2011 5:49:17 PM , Rating: 5
whoosh


RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By retrospooty on 10/10/11, Rating: 0
RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By priusone on 10/11/2011 2:21:03 AM , Rating: 2
I'll second the vote for Laser Printers. I have a used 8 year old HP LaserJet 1200, the drivers actually work well and was purchased used for $20 two years ago. Oh, and I'm still on the same cartidge that I bought it with.


RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By retrospooty on 10/11/2011 10:28:04 AM , Rating: 2
Yup - and I am sure 99% of the people that complain about ink prices are in the same boat - bought a super cheap inkjet and print WAY too much to make that cheap printer cheap.


By priusone on 10/11/2011 4:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
Of all the friends and relatives printers that I've ever dealt with have been bought new from a store, except that LaserJet. What kills me is when I offer to let people borrow it and they complain that it doesn't do color. Well, I guess they are going to be stuck buying $50 worth of cartidges because the cyan color is empty, even though the other two colors are mostly full.


RE: ( I can never think of good subject lines.)
By JediJeb on 10/10/2011 4:58:36 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe this will finally allow computer manufacturers to break away from Rambus and kill off that patent hog once and for all.


By Joz on 10/10/2011 6:10:35 PM , Rating: 3
Along with Apple...
hopefully?


By Joz on 10/13/2011 5:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
How come I got 0'd?


Component business?
By wallijonn on 10/10/2011 11:01:58 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Mr. Williams says HP's plan is not to return to the components business where it was once a strong player, but rather to license the technology to interested components manufacturers.


"Was once" a strong player? They certainly didn't manufacture nor conceive of their printers. Perhaps they laid out their PC boards and then have someone else manufacture them. But I doubt that they had a "components business," per se. They're certainly not like Intel which has hundreds of fabrication buildings all over the world, actually manufacturing chips.




RE: Component business?
By vol7ron on 10/10/2011 12:39:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well, Apple did get its help from HP, so I'd say they were a pretty strong player back in the day, especially during the 70s and early 80s.


RE: Component business?
By Gondor on 10/10/2011 4:17:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But I doubt that they had a "components business," per se. They're certainly not like Intel which has hundreds of fabrication buildings all over the world, actually manufacturing chips.


HP has been producing a number of electronics components, among them various ICs, opto-couplers etc.

They spun off this business under the Agilent brand.


RE: Component business?
By JediJeb on 10/10/2011 5:02:31 PM , Rating: 2
Just look under the hood of any of that old (15-20 years old) HP/Agilent analytical equipment and you see several components with the HP stamp on them. Been using their equipment for 20 years now in the lab( Gas Chromatographs, Mass Spectrometers, ect). They still have some of the best around.


RE: Component business?
By murray13 on 10/10/2011 5:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
Not a strong player???

While 'Agilent' was still part of HP they introduced a little integrated opto-IC part. What did it do???

Every optical and laser mouse in existance gets its IC from 'Agilent', used to be HP.

I'd say that's not just a small player.

And to whomever said that HP didn't create the inkjet, they most certainly did.


On Top?
By AskTheChief on 10/10/11, Rating: 0
RE: On Top?
By Gungel on 10/10/2011 11:22:47 AM , Rating: 2
figuratively on top, without the need of taxing the bus.


RE: On Top?
By vol7ron on 10/10/2011 12:33:27 PM , Rating: 2
You should ask the chief. When someone says "on top" it's synonymous to on die, since 3D manufacturing is still in its pubescent stages.


RE: On Top?
By Concillian on 10/10/2011 11:52:33 PM , Rating: 2
There are many metal layers on a CPU, GPU, or SoC. This would be 'on top' in terms of the way layers are manufactured now. There are so many available layers, and it would physically be a part of the CPU, though it would probably reduce the available complexity for any CPU to 'reseve' some of the layers for this technology. Presumably, the reduction in latency would help make up for that.

It doesn't need to be 3D manufacturing, there's already multilayer metal processes on silicon.


A company with a great ... past.
By drycrust3 on 10/10/2011 10:42:09 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
We put the non-volatile memory right on top of the processor chip, and, because you’re not shipping data off-chip, that means we get the equivalent of 20 years of Moore’s Law performance improvement

quote:
The arrival of memristor-enabled hardware appears poised to be "the next big thing" in the mobile electronics market over the next five years.

quote:
The plan is to license this technology to anyone who wants it, and we'll teach them how to make it.
quote:
Continuing ahead with its plan to spin-off its core personal computers business and focus solely on business software and hardware ....

The Directors knew of this new technology being produced (and all the other secret stuff as well) at the HP labs and still want to flog off that side of the business?




By vol7ron on 10/10/2011 12:38:09 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing it. The article is about how this "new" technology is aimed at the commercial market. My guess is HP is working from the top, down.

It'll probably still have a consumer market, but it won't be the focus, and it will probably see dated versions of technology that existed in the commercial line. Really, you need a commercial market to exist to pay for your R&D, so this isn't such a bad move - companies fork over multi-millions, when you'd have to do a lot of marketing to get that kind of return from individuals.


Nice
By wiz220 on 10/10/2011 11:23:45 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
HP currently owns a key patent [U.S. Patent 7443711] on its memristor implementation and the process to build it. And it has more patents pending. Mr. Williams says HP's plan is not to return to the components business where it was once a strong player, but rather to license the technology to interested components manufacturers.


It's nice to see patent laws being used as they were intended, for once.




RE: Nice
By vol7ron on 10/10/2011 12:43:19 PM , Rating: 2
Agree, but most patents are only good for a maximum of 20 years, provisional patents are good for far less (like a year).

So I'm curious how someone could retain a patent after 40 years. I'm not quite sure you can just renew.


Patents
By Solandri on 10/10/2011 3:29:15 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
HP currently owns a key patent [U.S. Patent 7443711] on its memristor implementation and the process to build it. And it has more patents pending. Mr. Williams says HP's plan is not to return to the components business where it was once a strong player, but rather to license the technology to interested components manufacturers.

Translation: Patent lawsuits have made it uneconomical to actually manufacture anything. Instead, we'll license our invention for someone else to manufacture, and they can deal with fighting off the patent trolls.




cheaper SSDs?
By kattanna on 10/10/2011 10:15:20 AM , Rating: 2
if it can bring cheaper SSDs onto the market, that would be great




just wait for the firesale
By johnsonx on 10/16/2011 8:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
don't worry, if this product isn't #1 after 6 weeks on the market, HP will cancel the whole thing and we'll be able to buy them at 80% off.




*sigh*
By Jammrock on 10/10/2011 1:00:56 PM , Rating: 1
One more "memory replacement" added to the list. As usual, I'll believe it when I see it.




"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer














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