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Analysts weigh in on NAND market's future

Posted: 04 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NAND supply? NAND fabs? supply chain disruptions? Japan Earthquake?

How has the catastrophic Japan earthquake affected the NAND flash market?

Industry experts provide conflicting answers. A few are confident that supply chain disruptions would only slightly affect NAND shipments and prices in the next two quarters.

''I see very little disruption from Toshiba/SanDisk NAND production (in Japan) and prices on a normal decline based on seasonality,'' said Alan Niebel, president of Web-Feet Research.

''Overall, the momentum is still high for another record shipment of NAND this year with the new demand for tablets and continued acceleration for mobile phones, eReaders, and all things NAND especially in the compute arena. Flash cache, flash SSDs and flash in other areas of the enterprise will still be big throughout the year,'' he said.

There are some issues with the supply chain. ''My forecast remains pretty much the same, except with a slight disruption in the supply chain impacting in July from components coming out of Japan,'' he said.

Others had a different view. "It's too soon to really understand what the ramifications will be for this, since there could be equipment delays that might impact the second-half collapse. I would think that, at the latest, it would slip into 1Q '12," said Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective-Analysis.

"Apple will get all the flash they need," he said. ''It's the little guys who will feel the pain if there's a shortage. Pricing has come back close to where it was pre-quake, so there's no indication of any shortage at all.''

For some time, NAND flash vendors have seen stunning growth. But Hynix, Micron, Samsung and Toshiba have ramped up or will ramp up new NAND fabsa move that could cause a capacity glut and falling prices. "We've been calling for a collapse (in the NAND market) in the second half of this year," Handy recently said.

Prices for NAND jumped after the earthquake. More recently, prices have fallen. "NAND flash went from boom to bust last week as spot prices tumbled across most densities," according to VLSI Research Inc.

''The overall spot price-per-bit for NAND fell a slight 0.2 percent; however, the decline within segments was a lot steeper than the headline number. Spot prices for 8Gb NAND plunged as much as 18 percent, while those for 4Gb were off 8 percent. High-density NAND was also weak with spot prices for 16Gb falling 4 percent and those for 32Gb and 64Gb dropping by 2 percent,'' according to VLSI Research.

''DRAM spot prices pulled back after last week's surge as fears of shortages eased, according to the firm. Overall, ''chipmakers were still busy evaluating the supply chain, ensuring tool availability and delivery following the earthquake in Japan. So far there have been no significant disruptions in the equipment market.''

One vendor, TSMC, "reported that equipment suppliers in Japan were recovering better than expected. Moreover, the company believes that the increase in orders due to the crisis is insignificant and will most likely be short-lived," according to VLSI. "However, there's trouble brewing in the PC market. Acer has cut its Q1 outlook for revenue and its outlook for Q2 unit shipments, citing weak demand in the U.S. and Europe."

Still, VLSI Research has increased its IC forecast amid stronger-than-expected demand in the first quarter.

- Mark LaPedus
??EE Times

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