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NAND flash memory pricing to plummet to $1 per GB

Drop in 3-bit-per-cell NAND flash will jumpstart SSD sales, says iSuppli

August 19, 2010 12:27 PM ET

Computerworld - After two years of inflated prices, NAND flash memory prices are expected to dip down to a key $1 per gigabyte level, according to a new report by research firm iSuppli.

The precipitous drop marks the first time NAND flash pricing has fallen to the $1 per GB threshold since the fourth quarter of 2008, when consumer-class NAND pricing averaged 90 cents per GB.

Skyrocketing NAND flash prices last year subdued what had been a booming solid state drive (SSD) market. The price of flash memory chips rose to $4.10 per GB in the second quarter of last year.

Pricing for NAND flash memory had been expected to flat-line until next year, when NAND flash chip fabricators will be able to reinvest their profits to ramp up production and begin selling higher-density products, industry experts say.

But in a report released today, iSuppli forecasts that NAND flash pricing for 3-bit-per-cell NAND will average $1.20 per GB for the entire fourth quarter and will then drop to $1 by the end of this year. The $1 per GB level is considered a threshold that will drive adoption of solid state drives, iSuppli stated.

The recent price drop is reflected in the first quarter of 2010, when pricing for 3-bit-per-cell (or triple-level cell) NAND averaged $1.80 per GB and 2-bit per cell flash was at $2.05, iSuppli stated.

"When NAND pricing first fell below the $1 level at the end of 2008, many observers opined that it would sound the starting gun for solid state storage, allowing the technology to be cost competitive with hard disk drives in PCs for the first time," Michael Yang, iSuppli senior analyst for memory and storage, said in a statement. "However, during the following quarters, pricing rose because of strong demand and constrained production capacity, limiting the appeal of SSDs to low-volume servers in data centers and preventing widespread adoption in high-volume business and consumer PCs."

Objective Analysis research analyst Jim Handy disagreed with iSuppli's forecast, saying NAND flash memory is still suffering from a shortage and that prices are going to stay "pretty flat till the second half of next year".

"Then they will drop ... darn fast. The cost of the just-announced Intel/Micron 25nm, three-bit NAND should be 40 cents per gigabyte once volume is reached," he said. "In other words, I disagree greatly with iSuppli. So does history."

Objective Analysis came out with a report earlier this week that also stated SSDs are poised for rapid growth in certain niche markets.

The report, Solid State Disk Market Outlook 2010, states that while SSDs haven't found widespread acceptance in general-purpose PCs, those applications that benefit from this technology will drive the server SSD market to grow at an impressive 60% year over year rate.

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