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NEC teams with hard-disk signal processing expert

Posted by iMark - 2005-11-09

NEC Electronics Corp. and Link A Media Devices Corp. have formed a strategic partnership to develop SoCs for next-generation perpendicular recording hard-disk drives. The first product will hit the market next summer.

NEC said it has invested $8 million in Link A Media (Santa Clara, Calif.) to become a 16.7-percent shareholder. The deal also allows NEC to reenter the hard-disk drive chip market.

"Link A Media has the advanced technology that enables perpendicular recording for high density recording. NEC Electronics, as an IDM, has varieties of IP cores, which we are offering to Link A Media to be used in its solution design," said J.J. Yamaguchi, executive vice president of NEC Electronics.

The partners said they will jointly develop SoCs for hard drives by combining Link A Media's read channel, error correction coding and data recovery technologies with NEC's 90-nm process and standard IP blocks. The chips will be fabricated at NEC Electronics' Yamagata 300-mm fab. Link A Media will market and sell devices to OEMs.

The partners will first focus chips for 2.5- and 1.8-inch hard drives for mobile applications. The target density is 150 to 180 gigabits per inch, according to Hemant Thapar, founder and CEO of Link A Media.

Aiming for ¥10 billion (about $90 million) in sales in the first year, the two companies hope to gain about 20 percent share in the hard disk IC market by 2010. At that stage, Yamaguchi said he expected a monthly capacity of about 5,000 300-mm wafers per will be required.

Thapar said density has long been a key customer requirement. Heads, media and signal processing are three other major technology drivers behind density growth, he added, and Link A Media is focusing on signal processing. Thapar developed disk dirve signal processing innovations including Partial Response, Maximum Likelihood (PRML), Extended PRML and Generalized PRML while working at IBM Corp. and at DataPath Systems. NEC Corp. (before the spin off of NEC Electronics) had been working with Thapar for over a decade when he was CEO of DataPath.

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