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Tablets, smartphones propel mobile memory chip market

Posted: 16 May 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile memory? DRAM? NAND? NOR flash?

The future of mobile DRAM also looks bright, as it is forecast to account for more than 32 percent of all DRAM bits shipped in 2015a dramatic increase from a 6.2 percent share in 2009, IHS noted. While 2-gigabit and 4-gigabit shipments have become the volume leaders, 8-gigabit mobile DRAM will become the sweet-spot density for handsets that sport the latest Android operating system, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

The third component of the mobile memory market, NOR flash, continues to decline amid weakness in several key segments. NOR flash is the only segment of the mobile memory market that will see revenue trend downward this year, falling to a projected $1.5 billion compared to $1.8 billion in 2011, said the market research firm.

As handsets continue to migrate upward in their use of memory, NOR is increasingly in uncertain ground, unable to meet the growing demand for high density while keeping costs low, unlike its rival NAND. A lower-cost NOR product known as Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) NOR from aggressive Taiwanese suppliers has also been enjoying more prominent play of late, but its lower cost has pushed overall NOR revenue down.

Given the changes sweeping the NOR market, the traditional suppliers of NOR have seen their markets erode. For instance, NOR-related revenue in the fourth quarter of 2011 for Micron Technology Inc. fell a sequential 24 percent, while major NOR player Spansion Inc. has shifted focus to the more stable embedded market also in light of declining revenue.

Only one player has enjoyed great strides in the NOR market: Beijing-based GigaDevice Semiconductor Inc. saw its business grow rapidly in the fourth quarter last year after quarterly revenue growth of more than 240 percent, in line with projections for the company to outpace other NOR suppliers in the near term.

Embedded memory segment also sees growth
For the embedded memory segment that makes up part of the total mobile and embedded memory market, optimism is returning with PCs forecast to enjoy a resurgence, buoyed by Intel Corp.'s strong push of its Ultrabook platform as well as the expected launch of Windows 8 by Microsoft Corp. later this year. And with high-volume projections being made for media tablets this year, the fortunes of the embedded memory market are looking up as well.

Overall, the embedded market still represents almost 5 billion NOR units in shipments projected for 2012, with a five-year CAGR in excess of 4 percent through 2016.

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