China has tired of semiconductor ebb and flow, just like the rest of us, but unlike us the country actually has the power to do something about it. It's ready to pounce on DRAM makers Micron, Samsung, and SK Hynix for an alleged price fixing scheme, and that breaking story will play out for years to come. When the dust settles the companies will likely pay a fine, take a slap on the wrist, and promise never to get caught doing it again, just like in the mid 2000s.
This game plays out every few decades, but China may have figured out a way to stop it from happening again. Instead of sitting idle, the country has invested billions of dollars in DRAM and NAND flash development. The dollars cover every aspect of the product, from IP to R&D and now manufacturing.
China and its partners are not trying to develop the most innovative products. To start they just need to produce "good enough" technology to disrupt pricing, guarantee availability, and prepare to use it in millions of mostly low-cost devices. For instance, during the NAND flash shortage, companies without guaranteed access to flash would "reclaim" memory from broken devices and produce "new" SSDs that sold for half the price of SSDs in the U.S. and Europe. That's not an ideal solution, but it worked in the short term to meet demand.
Today we saw UNIC's 32-layer 3D TLC memory in action for the first time. Maxiotek paired the new memory with a MAS0902 controller and the results are much better than we expected.
This combination will not play a significant role in the coming months, but UNIC has aggressive plans to scale density by ramping to 64-layers rapidly. The government-subsidized company will ship most products inside The Great Wall, but the ripples will spread around the globe, likely taking the form of lower prices once manufacturing takes off with a viable product.
We will have more coverage from the Maxiotek booth later this week with a detailed breakdown of the new controllers and performance comparisons of 96-layer TLC and QLC technology.