NAND flash sales -- and prices -- surge

Sales grow by 30% in year ended June 30; Samsung still leads the way followed by Toshiba and SK Hynix, which has passed Micron in flash market share

Sales of NAND flash technology rose 11% from the first to second quarters this year, and 30% for the year ending June 30, even as prices have surged.

For instance, the price of a 64Gbit NAND flash chip rose from $3.69 earlier this year to a high of $7.50 today, according to market research firm TrendForce.

Shipments of both enterprise multi-embedded multi-media cards (eMMC) and solid-state drives remained steady through the second quarter of 2013 as suppliers shipped $5.77 billion dollars worth of flash products, according to TrendForce.

The $5.77 billion represents an 11.2% increase from the first quarter, Trendforce stated, adding that it is "optimistic on long-term industry growth."

Samsung continued to hold a commanding lead over other NAND flash suppliers.

Samsung sold $2.2 billion of flash in the second quarter, or 37.8% of total flash sales. Samsung was followed by Toshiba, which reaped $1.7 billion in sales, or 28.7% of the total; SK Hynix with $840 million, or 14.5%; Micron with $678 million, or 11.7% ; and Intel with $413 million in flash revenue, or 7.2% of the market.

Samsung's flash sales benefited from stable growth in the smartphone and tablet market, as well as steady sales of SSD, eMMC and embedded multi-chip package (eMCP) sales, TrendForce stated in its report today.

Samsung also leads the industry in triple-level cell (three-bits per cell) SSDs and it is migrating from 21 nanometer (nm) to 19nm process technology.

With the NAND flash industry making a dramatic recovery from last year when sales had slowed, Toshiba has set its target memory revenue increase at 12% for this year. Since the manufacturer returned to fully loaded capacity in the middle of the second quarter, TrendForce forecasts Toshiba will see a 9% to 10% shipment increase in the third quarter. Toshiba is also moving to 19nm process technology.

According to SK Hynix's second quarter financial report, the manufacturer's NAND flash revenue reached $840 million, a whopping 31.3% increase over the first quarter, making SK Hynix the supplier with the highest percentage revenue growth for the second quarter of 2013, according to TrendForce.

SK Nynix edged out Micron for third place in marketshare. TrendForce attributed SK Hynix's growth mainly to strong eMMC and eMCP shipments.

"China's rapidly growing smartphone market has contributed significantly to SK Hynix's NAND flash revenue, pushing its bit shipment volume growth to 29%, while ASP also rose, by 5%. Third quarter bit shipment volume is expected to increase by 20%," Trendforce stated.

Meanwhile, Micron's NAND flash revenue fell by 4.5% in the second quarter from the first to $678 million. Micron's average selling price increased by 8% in the second quarter over the first, as NAND flash prices overall rose. However, as the proportion of specialty products increased and the manufacturer's migration to the 20nm process is slightly lagging, average cost also increased by 1%.

Lastly, Intel experienced strong demand for its enterprise-class SSDs, TrendForce stated. The growth was attributed to the popularity of cloud computing.

"However, restricted by limited capacity and a relatively slower migration to the 20nm process, [Intel's] second-quarter NAND flash revenue only increased by 1.2% quarter over quarter, arriving at $413 million," TrendForce stated.

TrendForce expects that as the Intel's 20nm flash memory output grows, product performance will improve.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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