Growing System-Level Knowledge: Q&A with Micron



Image quality that’s just so-so from our smartphones is so over—just one of the reasons mobile device memory and storage must evolve.

Editor’s Note: EECatalog spoke with Gino Skulick, vice president of marketing for Micron’s Mobile Business Unit recently about what’s accelerating the challenges mobile device makers face, particularly for memory and storage.  Edited excerpts follow.

EECatalog: How are memory and storage being challenged by what consumers demand from mobile devices?

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Gino Skulick, Micron: There is a growing expectation from consumers that the smartphone can increasingly perform complex computing tasks, as well as create and store all of your personal content. With every new generation of devices, there is also a built-in expectation that battery life will increase, that the phone gets slimmer, and that screens become more brilliant. All of these expectations create a big challenge for mobile device makers: Ensure there is enough system memory to drive these complex applications and enough storage to accommodate the associated exponential growth of content.

EECatalog: Are challenges for memory and storage for mobile coming from any areas we would not have expected even a year ago?

Skulick, Micron: While mobile imaging has been evolving for several years now, there has been an acceleration in the quality of dual-camera and tri-camera systems and increased intelligence of image processing applications. For example, the front-facing cameras which used to be relegated to low-resolution “selfies” now boast full resolution sensors, high-quality lenses, and dual-tone flash systems. On the image processing side, manufacturers are now including advanced features as the norm, including image stabilization, phase detect auto focus and full-time HDR.  The quick acceleration of high-quality imaging puts a strain on the phone’s SoC performance, and the amount of available RAM is critical for these systems to keep up. And of course, the richer the content the bigger the file sizes are, which puts huge demands on local storage.

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EECatalog: What will be different on the tech landscape at the point where the AR revolution has succeeded?

Skulick, Micron: It seems that everyone is jumping into the fray to get a piece of the AR revolution. There are some wild predictions out there as to what AR will enable, but one thing is clear: there will be a need for additional hardware. Whether the AR is confined to the smartphone or the experience requires a mixed reality headset, there will be a whole host of new AR technology and hardware over the next few years. Regardless of the approach (smartphone, smartphone + headset or standalone headset), processing, memory and storage density requirements will continue to increase.

We continue to believe that heterogeneous memory and storage solutions will be custom tailored to solve difficult problems. New and emerging memory technologies will be a critical part of those solutions.

EECatalog: What has prepared Micron to come up with innovative approaches to mobile memory and storage challenges and what are the chicken-and-egg type problems to solve to make sure innovation can continue?

Skulick, Micron: Micron is continuing to transform from a pure component supplier to a solutions provider. As part of this evolution, we have had to grow significantly our system-level knowledge. By approaching our product solutions from the system perspective, we are able to deliver more innovative and impactful solutions.

EECatalog: What memory and storage challenges are not getting the attention they deserve?

Skulick, Micron: The issue today is not what memory and storage challenges aren’t getting the attention they deserve, but rather, which are the greatest memory and storage challenges that have yet to be addressed. In mobile, workloads are becoming more and more parallel as people are routinely leveraging multiple applications in any use session. For example, it is common to take a call, look up a contact and then text it to the person on the phone while maybe also browsing or using maps to consider the best place to meet (and maybe even take a picture to send as well). Lots of simultaneous operations transpiring in the phone is driving the need for better storage latency and higher IOPS.

EECatalog: Do you see the mobile ecosystem becoming the mobile ecosystems, as specialization rises to meet specific requirements—how should developers prepare if this will be the case?

Skulick, Micron: Compatibility issues will continue to limit the number of mobile ecosystems. Due to added cost and validation resources, developers will not want to create more versions of the same applications to support additional mobile platforms. We fully expect the mobile ecosystem to evolve, but we also believe it will evolve universally so that applications won’t need to be written multiple times for multiple ecosystems.