Update Saturday, March 10 12:00 PM: Our original story suggested that Tsinghua Unigroup would license Intel technology to produce its own NAND flash. That conclusion was incorrect, and we have updated our article accordingly. We apologize for the error.
We're all feeling the sting of paying the same prices for SSDs now that we did two years ago thanks to short supplies of flash, and Intel may be poised to benefit from even further demand. A report from BusinessKorea indicates that Tsinghua Unigroup and Intel are entering a long-term relationship that will allow the Chinese company to obtain Intel NAND and manufacture consumer flash memory products with those chips inside, a fact bolstered by reporting from the Nikkei Asian Review. That includes the 64-layer 3D NAND flash that the company uses in its own SSD 760p series.
The Nikkei Asian Review further reports that Tsinghua may use that flash to produce products like microSD cards and solid-state drives under its Unic brand. The publication reports that it's unclear whether a technology transfer will eventually take place between Intel and Tsinghua as part of the deal.
This news is the latest development in a string of events involving Tsinghua Unigroup and American flash producers. Back in 2015, Tsinghua had expressed interest in buying Micron. That deal apparently never actually made it to the formal proposal stage, but the US federal government likely would have blocked it anyway. More than a year later, Tsinghua began shopping around US flash companies to strike up the kind of agreement that BusinessKorea is reporting on now.
BusinessKorea expresses concern that this Tsinghua-Intel deal will cause "oversupply" in the NAND flash market. It's difficult to imagine that in the current supply-starved atmosphere. In any case, this deal could be a stepping stone towards the Chinese government's plan to be 70% self-sufficient in the area of semiconductor products by 2025.