Samsung: Consumers, businesses to spark NAND flash rebound

Driven by applications ranging from cell phones, videocams, and embedded pens to PCs and servers, NAND memory is now set for a big resurgence, according to a Samsung vice president this week.

NEW YORK CITY (BetaNews) - Ultimately, the NAND flash cards already used in mobile devices and digital photography might even replace CDs, contended Jim Elliott, Samsung's VP of memory management, in a presentation at a Samsung press event on Wednesday.

"NAND memory is leading memory market growth," Elliott told reporters. According to iSuppli, as of the fourth quarter of 2007, Samsung ranked number one among all NAND suppliers worldwide, with quarterly revenues from NAND of $1.45 billion, a 13 percent rise over the same quarter last year.

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Elliott predicted this week that, although the overall memory market will remain flat at about $50 billion annually from 2007 to 2008, NAND's share of that market will rise this year, spurred partly by the inclusion of flash card slots in a lot more cell phone models.

By 2011, he said, the memory market will grow to $80 billion, sparked by the movement from 2-bit to new multi-level 3-bit/cell NAND technology, and the advent of both new NAND-enabled embedded devices and higher capacity flash cards.

The newer flash cards will capable of storing large amounts of video, along with still photos and music, according to the Samsung VP.

As an example of an innovative embedded device already available on the market, Elliott pointed to Pulse Inc.'s LiveScribe, a NAND-based pen enabled for handwriting capture and audio recording.

But NAND will also "transcend the CE arena," through new applications in solid state drive-enabled PCs and enterprise servers, according to the Samsung VP. The migration of NAND to the business scene, he said, will help offset the impact of fluctuations in consumer spending.

The Samsung VP also acknowledged that growing demand for NAND is past years has caused a recent oversupply of NAND chips in relation to current demand. But, he maintained, the "capacity run-up is tapering." In the "traditional memory cycle," a period of "high losses" is followed by decreased supply, and then by a return to "high profitability."

As previously reported in BetaNews, prices for NAND memory chips fell earlier this year, causing iSuppli to lower its revenue growth projections for 2008, issuing a letter of warning that pointed to a drop in Apple's NAND demand and order forecasts for the iPod.

Intel, Micron Technology, and ST Micron had jumped into NAND, joining traditional market leaders Samsung, Toshiba, and Hynix in efforts to meet demand forecasts from Apple which then fell short. Intel and STMicron, however, subsequently offloaded their NAND chip production on to a new joint venture named Numonix.

In issuing the NAND warning, iSuppli analysts drew parallels with an earlier oversupply problem in the DRAM market. Earlier this month, however, iSuppli forecast that DRAM prices should start to step up once more, now that the DRAM market has "bottomed out" in pricing.

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