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The NAND flash memory market is expected to achieve healthy 8% growth this year because of major sales drivers, including solid-state-drive (SSD) equipped ultrabooks, according to an IHS iSuppli report.

Global NAND flash revenue this year is projected to reach $22.9 billion, up from $21.2 billion in 2011. With NAND flash consumption increasing in the three principal markets for smartphones, tablets and SSDs in ultrabooks, NAND revenue will climb continually during the next few years, hitting approximately $30.9 billion by 2016, according to the market research firm.

Underperformance of Tablets Hurts NAND Flash Market, But Continues to Drive It

The NAND industry finished 2011 somewhat below industry expectations, mainly because consumers did not embrace tablets as enthusiastically during the fourth quarter as initially expected. While the Apple iPad is a major achievement, the same level of success has not been shared by other manufacturers’ tablets.

“Given the lukewarm performance of the tablet segment last year, there was some trepidation coming into 2012 for the NAND industry. But even though most NAND manufacturers had planned to be on the fast track in 2012 to increase production at newly built fabs, each supplier has since reduced capital spending compared to its original plans, electing to moderate supply expansions to allow demand to catch up. Such a strategy will avoid a precipitous price decline that the industry won’t be able to withstand, leading to more optimism for a stronger 2012,” said Michael Yang, senior principal analyst for memory & storage at IHS.

The greatest success besides the iPad has been achieved by lower-end tablets such as the Kindle Fire from Amazon. However, the Fire comes with only 8GB of NAND flash, compared to the iPad’s maximum 64GB of storage. This is resulting in overall lower consumption of NAND flash than if competitive tablets had similar NAND densities to the iPad. Even so, tablets will be responsible for 12% of NAND flash bit shipments this year, with NAND flash consumption in tablets reaching 3.6 billion gigabytes, up from 1.6 gigabytes in 2011.

On its own, Apple will consume about 25% of the overall NAND supply in 2012, equivalent to some 8 billion gigabytes. The iPad will be responsible for 74% of NAND consumption in the tablet segment this year, accounting for 2.8 billion gigabytes out of a total 3.8 billion gigabytes in tablets.

Ultrabooks and Smartphones: New Opportunities Emerge

The shining new hope for the NAND industry this year could well be the ultrabook. With their light weight, long battery life and fast boot-up times, ultrabooks will appeal to all types of users. This will push total NAND consumption in the PC segment to more than 15% of total NAND flash supply. SSDs will account for some 3.3 billion gigabytes of NAND flash consumption this year, up from 1.7 billion gigabytes in 2011.

Another area of growth that the NAND industry can rely on this year is the cell phone market, particularly in the smartphone segment. Smartphone shipments this year will hit 626 million units, with an average NAND flash content of 9.0GB. By 2016, NAND memory content in smartphones will amount to 18.9GB, representing 16% of total NAND bit shipments. Overall NAND flash consumption in 2012 for smartphones is forecast to reach 5.7 billion gigabytes, up from 3.1 billion gigabytes in 2011.

The Apple iPhone, with an average density that is more than two times that of other smartphones, will consume more than 3.2 billion gigabytes in 2012. Other Apple products that will use NAND flash in significant quantities are the Mac Book Air and iPod Touch.

Tags: NAND, Flash, Business, Apple

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