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Intel and Micron downgrade 3D Xpoint relationship from friends with benefits to partners

The tech’s almost grown up so they’ll be sleeping in separate rooms under one roof

Intel and Micron Technology will dissolve the partnership that gave the world 3D XPoint storage-class memory.

Identically-worded statements from both companies said “The companies have agreed to complete joint development for the second generation of 3D XPoint technology, which is expected to occur in the first half of 2019. Technology development beyond the second generation of 3D XPoint technology will be pursued independently by the two companies in order to optimize the technology for their respective product and business needs.”

Neither company has said why they’re breaking up, but the statements feature Micron executive veep of technology development Scott DeBoer saying “By developing 3D XPoint technology independently, Micron can better optimize the technology for our product roadmap while maximizing the benefits for our customers and shareholders.”

Intel’s senior veep and GM for non-volatile memory products Rob Crooke said Chipzilla is pretty happy with how Optane’s gone so far in consumer and business device and will build on this momentum and extend our leadership”.

News of the split is surprising but not without precedent, as in January 2018 the two companies went their own way on development of 3D NAND products after previously working together on the technology. Reasons advanced for that split were close to those used today – a desire to serve the markets each knows best rather than walk in lock-step.

The relationship between the pair isn’t over, as they’ll still share the Utah facility where 3D Xpoint is built. But the two will no longer share intimate details of their development work.

Which leaves the question of what happens to the kids an open one, but also one that’s not hard to answer because Intel’s strong suits are PCs and servers, plus an interest in storage devices. The two overlap in solid state disks, but Micron sells memory to anyone who needs it. Intel will presumably keep making Optane work best with Xeons and Core CPUs. Micron shouldn’t have much trouble making it sing in all sorts of other devices.

Or perhaps neither company can be bothered, as both have reported underwhelming demand for the technology. ®

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