All of the hype over solid state drives (SSDs) for the 2012 Christmas season was met with disappointment as prices stayed high and demand stayed low. Moving into 2013, the demand was expected to increase but again, there was disappointment. Many wondered when this scenario would change…and it looks like it has. Features such as HD video content, shared data via the cloud, and low power consumption remain prominent based on consumer demand.
Product demand is shifting in today’s SSD market. Intel has been a long-standing leader, providing universal products that can easily be spec'ed in builds. However, at their price points, manufacturers like Toshiba and Samsung started providing less-expensive options that could usually be substituted for the Intel models. Recently, as Intel pulled their NAND into a more vertical supply chain, shortages have occurred with their new lines of SSDs containing Intel NAND and new SATA technology.
The recent jump in demand for SSDs has grabbed the attention of IBM. Last month, the technology and consulting company announced that they plan to invest $1 billion in research and development of flash memory. The belief is that flash memory is the solution to the battle of corporate servers to keep pace with the data usage of smartphones and tablets. Back in February, we reviewed the 2012 year for server and storage companies. As we saw at that time, SSDs could easily find a new home in the server market.
With all of the attention on SSDs, it is easy to forget about the other, ever-expanding product categories that rely on NAND flash memory. Smartphones are expected to fulfill 26% of the NAND market in 2013 based on forecasts that smartphones will be the majority (56%) of total cellphone shipments. Other fast-growing segments are tablet PCs and HHP devices (handheld players); last year, 117 million units shipped from this segment. In 2013, shipments are expected to increase year-over-year by about 43%, to reach 167 million units.
It looks like the clouds are clearing for NAND, at least for the meantime. This non-volatile type of memory rides a very volatile wave in its own market, yet continues to play a major role in three of the largest electronics segments.