Amid tough market conditions for NOR-type flash, Spansion Inc. (Nasdaq: SPSN) seized the leading market and revenue share positions in 2006 from semiconductor giant, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC).

The Sunnyvale Calif.-based firm increased its revenue in 2006 by 25.6 percent, capturing 30.4 percent of the total market, iSuppli reported. This surge in market share, combined with a decline in annual NOR revenue at competitor Intel, caused Spansion to rise to the top spot in the global rankings in 2006.

Spansion earned $2.6 billion in 2006, up from the $2.1 billion seen in the previous year. iSuppli said on Thursday that the memory maker far exceeded the overall NOR market’s revenue growth of 8.1 percent for the year, as well

These earnings supplanted the industry's previous leader, Intel, which saw $2 billion NOR-flash sales. The chip company dropped 9.9 percent from the market leading 2.2 billion seen in 2005.

Intel also lost nearly 5 percent of the total market, garnering 24.2 percent in 2006, compared to its leading 29 percent one year prior.

The shifts came in the midst of a difficult market. While revenue in the total market rose to $8.5 billion in 2006, up from $7.9 billion in 2005, and unit shipments increased, suppliers continued to post losses, according to iSuppli.

While 2006 was not as brutal as 2005, when overall revenue declined by 15.5 percent, market conditions were still daunting, characterized by eroding Average Selling Prices (ASPs) in all market segments, said Mark DeVoss, senior analyst with iSuppli. ASP erosion was most pronounced in the mobile-phone sector, which represents the largest market for NOR flash.

Flash memory is common in many of today's portable electronics, including Apple's iPod and many digital cameras. Invented by scientists at Toshiba in the mid-1980's, it can store data by electrical stimulation, and can retain information even when not connected to a power source.