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Micron, Intel curb their partnership. What it means for Boise’s top for-profit employer

Micron demonstrates how its 3-D Crosspoint chips work

Micron and Intel Corp. developed this memory to improve the handling of large amounts of data. It is nonvolatile, meaning it retains its data when electrical power is turned off.
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Micron and Intel Corp. developed this memory to improve the handling of large amounts of data. It is nonvolatile, meaning it retains its data when electrical power is turned off.

Micron and Intel are splitting up. But they’ll share custody of their child.

Boise’s Micron Technology Inc., the nation’s second-largest semiconductor manufacturer, and Intel Corp., the largest, announced this week that they are ending their 12-year partnership to make flash memory.

“We’ve reached a point in the … development partnership where it is the right time for the companies to pursue the markets we’re focused on,” said Rob Crooke, a senior vice president at Intel, in a news release jointly issued by both companies.

The partnership began in 2005 with the signing of a joint-venture deal and a multibillion-dollar investment by both in Micron’s Lehi, Utah, plant.

A big part of the venture then was to make flash memory for Apple, which needed it for iPods. The first iPhone came along two years later, creating even more demand.

The companies said Monday that they will keep cooperating on a special type of flash memory they call 3D XPoint (pronounced crosspoint). That flash, which stacks memory in layers, fills a gap between conventional flash, which is cheap and good for data storage, and dynamic random-access memory, which is faster but costlier and loses data when power is turned off.

3D XPoint is all that the Utah plant, with 1,700 workers, makes now. Their work will continue.

Conventional flash, called NAND (a logic term, short for not-and), is common in mobile devices and solid-state drives. Micron makes it in Singapore and sells it for use in phones and other devices and in the solid-state drives that have been replacing spinning hard drives in computers.

The latest announcement is not expected to affect employment in Boise, where Micron does most of its flash research and development. Micron is Boise’s largest for-profit employer, with about 6,800 employees here.

The separation appears amicable. “We look forward to continuing to work with Intel on other projects as we each forge our own paths in future NAND development,” said Scott DeBoer, Micron’s executive vice president of technology development.

David Staats: 208-377-6417, @DavidStaats

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