On Thursday, Nanosys, a promising nanotech start-up of which Harris & Harris
The announcement is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, the odds that most nanotech start-ups will survive, let alone succeed, in the commercial marketplace are slim. One of the surest and safest paths to sustainability is to partner with a leading corporation. That Intel and Micron have agreed to extend the deal with Nanosys implies that they see at least some potential in Nanosys' technology.
This is obviously good news for both Nanosys and Harris & Harris investors, because it suggests that the companies could become legitimate players in NAND -- a market that is currently dominated by Samsung and Toshiba and is estimated to grow from $13 billion today to $35 billion by 2009.
The second important aspect of the announcement was that it confirmed that Nanosys' technology is compatible with Intel and Micron's manufacturing processes and equipment. According to Nanosys, its technology is compatible down to 18 nanometers. As memory devices are manufactured to ever-smaller dimensions, IM Flash Technologies (the joint company Intel and Micron formed in 2005 to create NAND memory) will not need to develop an entirely new -- and costly -- process until sometime early in the next decade.
Given the need for all sorts of electronic devices, such as cell phones, digital cameras, and Apple
I liken Nanosys' situation to that of a promising young baseball prospect who is presently toiling away in the farm leagues for a Double-A team in some podunk town. Despite his potential, he must still out-compete a number of other emerging "phenoms" to make it to the "Bigs."
For Harris & Harris, the situation is not as critical. That is because Harris & Harris is analogous to the owner of the Double-A team. Sure, it wants Nanosys to succeed, but it knows that its long-term success is less dependent on developing one star player. Since most players won't make it, it must develop a number of talents. And that is precisely what Harris & Harris is doing by investing in Nantero, another promising nanotech start-up that is using carbon nanotubes to create a different form of high-density NAND.
And lastly, for Intel, the situation is probably even less critical. That's because if Nanosys' technology doesn't pan out, Intel has the kind of deep pockets -- much like the New York Yankees -- that assure it can stay competitive by simply buying the best player after it has proven it can compete in the big leagues.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is big Minnesota Twins fan and resents how the Yankees refuse to develop their own talent internally. He is also the author of two books on nanotechnology. He owns shares of Intel and Harris & Harris. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors .