The Six Five Insider Edition with Micron’s Mark Montierth at Mobile World Congress 2023

By Patrick Moorhead - March 2, 2023

On this episode of The Six Five – Insider Edition, hosts Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead sit down with Micron’s Mark Montierth, Corporate Vice President & General Manager, Mobile Business Unit.

Their discussion covers:

  • Why end users should think about memory and storage when purchasing a new phone
  • What unique differentiators and value Micron brings to memory/storage and the mobile ecosystem
  • Micron mobile’s latest technology and ecosystem accomplishments
  • Mark’s predictions of future mobile use and innovation
  • What to expect for broader semiconductor innovation

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You can watch the full video here

You can listen to the conversation here:

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Patrick Moorhead: Hi, this is Pat Moorhead and The Six Five is in the Micron booth at Mobile World Congress, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. The energy is high here, Dan. I know we’ve talked about this a lot, but I just can’t tell you the difference between the past few years and 23.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I mean, other than the people that watched all of our videos continuously, they won’t realize how much we did end up talking about that. But you know what? We’re on the third day here, and it’s great to see the energy not really tailing off. In fact, to some extent, Wednesday morning felt almost as energetic to me as Monday morning. But like I said, it’s more of the macro that I’m really appreciating because when you stay home a lot and you kind of listen to the news, you start to feel kind of, oh, the market’s going to go bad, and ’23 is going to be a terrible year. The business conversations we’re having here are people are investing, that’s people are moving forward, and I think ’23 is going to shape up to be okay. And I think we’re going to head towards a really exciting and energetic ’24.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. Well, I’m super excited to talk today with the new head of the mobile BU mark. How are you doing? I’m

Mark Montierth: Doing great. Happy to be at the Show.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, thanks for coming on. First timer, new job.

Mark Montierth: Yeah, thanks.

Patrick Moorhead: Awesome. And what a great show to do your first video on The Six Five, because Mobility’s kind of important here at the show, isn’t it? Yeah,

Daniel Newman: Yeah. It’s called Mobile World Congress.

Patrick Moorhead: Mobile World Congress. Okay.

Daniel Newman: Hey, we said that together.

Patrick Moorhead: I know.

Daniel Newman: Perfectly.

Patrick Moorhead: Well, sometimes we think the same, sometimes we complete each other’s sentences.

Mark Montierth: Read each other’s thoughts.

Daniel Newman: It’s getting to be really cute.

Patrick Moorhead: This is a romance.

Daniel Newman: Hey Mark, you’re part of something special here, so give us the kind of gist, new role. Talk a little bit about what you’re excited about. Give us a little background on you for our audience.

Mark Montierth: Yeah, happy to do that. So I’m the new mobile GM at Micron, but I’m not new to mobile, nor new to Micron. So just a little bit about me real quick. Previously at Micron I was running our high performance memory group. So these are the world’s fastest memories. This is a high end graphics-

Patrick Moorhead: HBM.

Mark Montierth: HBM. We’re talking about picojoules per bit and terabytes per second in performance. So that’s my background at Micron and in mobile at previous companies. I’ve been doing wireless connectivity for quite a while.

Patrick Moorhead: No, that’s great. And it’s so fun when you move to a different role that the end market is so dramatically different, but as I always said, it always just gets down to PPA for the use case, but that is the truth. And I’m curious though, sometimes end users, and I think typically it’s a function of marketing spend on the processor, they think of that sometimes they think of graphics, but I’m curious what, what does the end user need to think about when they’re buying a new phone related to memory? Because if you have the right SOC without the right memory or the right storage, I mean, it’s kind of like a fiddler crab.

Mark Montierth: That is absolutely correct. And users are thinking about memory. They are thinking about storage. They may not call it that. They may talk about the form factor of the phone, the experience they’re having with the phone, their ability to play games, how long the phone lasts. Hugely enabled by the capabilities of the memory and storage. That’s why I’m excited to be at Micron and why I was excited for this role. It’s the things that really matter to people on their phones that memory enables.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. There’s no doubt that, and the memory capacity is out there, but there’s also the memory’s inherent role and even the battery life that goes into it that users need to, they expect a certain level of experience and memory brings that to the table as well.

Mark Montierth: And that expectation is growing every year as phones get more capable as we use them to do more. And it’s just unacceptable in today’s world that charge midday. And a huge component of that, as you just pointed out, is memory. Micron’s really at the forefront of designing the lowest power memories. Like I told you my background in the previous role, how do you get, we literally are measuring picojoules bit of transfer. Driving that down generationally.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think we talk about this ad nauseum on the show, but memory stores just don’t always get enough credit because we always kind of like to focus on the speed. It’s kind of like a car with horsepower and brakes. It’s like, it’s great if you can go fast, but you got to stop. There’s a very symbiotic relationship that the two play. But Micron’s not the only memory game in town. I mean, there’s other companies that make a lot of claims that say they have great performance on their memory side. And we just had a video with Qualcomm talking about why they built their flagship. But I mean, from your point of view, when you’re kind of getting into the differentiation and the value of Micron and why Micron wins the designs it does and why it’s become so important in the mobile space, how do you kind of position that?

Mark Montierth: Yeah. Love that question because it speaks to the heart of what we do at Micron. When I joined Micron, it was like I’d come home because this is a culture of innovation. I mean, really, we don’t start a product that we don’t sit down understand what’s going to delight customers, what’s going to bring new competitive value, and how we can be a leadership in it. We would never launch a product that we don’t believe is going to be a leadership product, bringing real value and innovation. So first and foremost, it’s built on that culture. And second, it’s about how do you drive that now with your customers in a way that’s valuable to them. Creating capabilities that aren’t usable in the phones is also not of value. So super close partnership with our lead chipset vendors, but also the handset makers. We have joint labs set up with most of the major companies where we really look at what we could do to innovate together. We’ll be demonstrating some of that at the show today.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, my relationship with Micron goes back to, I think 2001, maybe earlier, and there was a period where Micron wasn’t talking a lot about what it was doing. And then what I was so happy to see about two and a half years ago is first of all, you came out with some seriously leadership technologies, whether it was on the mobile side, high performance, memory and storage, right? First of this, first of that, and that’s hard to do in this business. So on the mobile side, can you talk about some of your latest and greatest technology?

Mark Montierth: Love to. Yeah. I’d love to.

I was just at a very large event in Japan back in November where we were demonstrating the world’s first 1-beta DRAM and 1-beta In the DRAM world is smaller geometries, lower powers. Micron is the first to demonstrate that, and the first product within that process is our LPDDR5X solution. And that’ll be ramping in phones this year and next year and really bringing new capabilities. So at Micron, it’s built on creating next generation process technology, next generation packaging technology, which brings it all together, and then working really closely to make sure that we bring those in cadence with when they’re needed in the market too. Because as while things move very fast, they move at a pretty specific cadence and you have to make sure you line up correctly.

Patrick Moorhead: And then what some people don’t fully realize is that not only are you a designer, but you are a very large manufacturer. And if anything, what we’ve seen when it comes to supply chain and the ability to get products to where they’re being manufactured, that has really shifted. And the great news is that you are locked in with these capabilities, unlike some other folks.

Mark Montierth: It is a big important part of our differentiation, having both memory business and leading technology, storage business and leading technology, and then a supply chain that’s worldwide and can really be used to the advantage of our customers. It’s a huge part of the Micron value proposition.

Daniel Newman: And semiconductors have definitely had a moment over the last few years if there was one kind of very quiet benefit to the semiconductor industry during this whole supply chain shortage was it was the global awareness that it created about the importance of all the things in our lives that we need semiconductors for. Wow. It became a dinner table conversation, something that people that had never thought about, “Oh my gosh, I can’t buy a car. I can’t buy a refrigerator, I can’t get a TV because they don’t get the chips.” And obviously Micron is part of that, but that’s a little history at this point.

There’s plenty of chips now, at least at the moment that it’ll come. The cycle will come again.

That’s what this industry does is cycles. It cycles incredibly well. But the future, over the last few weeks, I don’t think any topic has been more front of mind in tech than probably generative AI. That’s one use case, but I’m saying this stuff is now a lot of it’s kind of cloud data center core use applications, but it’s going to go to the edge. We had Cristiano Ahman, CEO of Qualcomm join us for a conversation about this talking about on device. Micron has to be thinking about this too. This is going to have to drive huge increases in storage and memory requirements. How do you prepare for that?

Mark Montierth: it is driving big increases. I mean, like the way you’re describing it. People are used to having tremendous capability with their phone, and it’s really mostly backed by large cloud services that are doing that compute, and that more and more, it needs to move to the edge for a lot of reasons. The expectation, the ease of use, and the storage requirements, the memory requirements go up dramatically. We’re preparing for it. We’re driving next generations of process technology, next generations of connectivity interfaces. We’re working on LP5, LP5X, LP6, and multiple generations. There’s a long pipeline of technology innovations that are in preparation for just that exact event.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. It’s interesting. Mark, in your experience, you’ve seen, again, the book ends, right? You’re new to the mobile division, but you’re doing the highest performance part of the market as well, national labs, hyperscalers, all of these. What are you most excited about, about semiconductors in general? Are the things that you’re thinking about, things you’re excited about, that you’d like to share with the audience?

Mark Montierth: Yeah, one or two. One is that the complexity that we’re able to deliver now actually brings simplification to people’s use cases. It was very hard to use technology going back even just a few years. And with the complexity we’re able to deliver now in these most recent advances, it’s actually a lot easier to use and that’s going to continue.

And I’m also very excited about the new services and capabilities that having an edge capable device will deliver. Nobody thought 10 years ago about ride-sharing or some of the food delivery services, but once you enable all these capabilities, all the partners we see here at this show are going to build whole new levels of service. So yeah, that’s what I get excited about is we’re not at the end of an innovation era. I’m sitting in meetings where we’re talking about 2030 and what we’re going to be doing post 2030, so very long innovation pipeline in support of a whole new slew of services and capabilities where the edges in your hand, not a portal to the edge, but the ability to actually drive edge computing there.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. It’s interesting. Just on a micro version of that, some of the uninformed, we’ll talk about, “Hey, let’s talk about 6G.” 5G is over, and all the companies that I’m talking here, all the way in the value chain, all the way from the carriers to the semiconductor makers, we’re literally in the middle of it right now. And whether it’s SA at the core, whether it’s new RAM capabilities, massive MIMO to enable the trillion devices on the edge and the industrial IOT. I am completely with you. And the great part is there are things that will happen in 10 years that none of us that have even thought of before, that they’re going to be there, and you’re going to be there. We expect you to be there, Mark.

Mark Montierth: We’ll be there. We’re going to have the storage and the memory, and we’ll be talking more about memory inside. I do think that you will see over, you talked about how more recently we have chip conversations now at the dinner table. We’re going to be talking more about memory and storage because it really is an important enabler to all of this.

Daniel Newman: I don’t know about you, actually. I think my kids probably talk more about memory than any other processing power, because when they’re, well, when they run out of memory.

Mark Montierth: Especially storage, right?

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Storage. When they run out, sorry, when they run out storage for videos, when they run out, they’re asking for, “How do I get backup to the cloud?” Or they’re thinking about it though, where they rarely actually think about why is this not processing as well? But they do think about I’ve taken too much video. And these younger generations, it’s not just photos, it’s video. I mean, all these apps, the TikToks and the Snaps, they’re creating dozens if not hundreds of videos a day. And as the cameras get better, that drives more memory. And then as you start taking this in, and we didn’t talk about the metaverse, and we’re kind of out of time, but I mean-

Mark Montierth: Well, your kids are going to love some of the technology that Micron is working on and delivering right now. For example, that situation you just described, a lot of video, a lot of adding and deleting apps. Yeah. Eventually your phone slows down.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely.

Mark Montierth: It basically gets messy on the inside, right? And Micron has innovated a technology we’re demonstrating here today, we call it ARB, automatic read burst and silently, privately, it keeps your data and storage close, clean and fast so that a year from now your phone’s just as fast as it was on day one.

Daniel Newman: Who wouldn’t want that?

Patrick Moorhead: Exactly. I love it.

Daniel Newman: All right, Mark. Well, thank you so much for joining us here.

Mark Montierth: Thank you for having me.

Daniel Newman: All right, everybody. You saw it here. Hit that subscribe button. We’d love to have you for all of our Six Five episodes here at MWC 2023 in Barcelona. We’re in the Micron booth. We appreciate all of you tuning in. But for this one, for Patrick and myself, it’s time to say goodbye. Thanks for joining us.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.