Macronix Solves Flash Wear Problem

Macronix Headquarters, Hsinchu TaiwanThe December issue of the IEEE Spectrum includes a fascinating article about a 100 million cycle flash memory developed by Macronix.  The company will present this design at at IEDM this month.

In brief: Macronix’ researchers buried a heater in the array to heat the tunnel dielectric, annealing out the disruptions & traps that might cause a bit to fail.

A prototype has so far been tested more than 100 million cycles and it shows no sign of impending failure.  Researchers believe that it is likely to reach one billion or more cycles, but such testing will take several months.  This just may be able to Continue reading

Samsung Revenues Reflect NAND Price Increase

Samsung Memory Revenue History 3Q09-2Q12NAND prices have increased since July, and that appears to have helped Samsung to increase its memory revenues in the past quarter.  That comes as a welcome change!

As this post’s graphic illustrates the company has has seen downward-trending memory revenues for five of the past six quarters, but Q2 revenues increased by ten percent.  Interestingly enough, the last quarter-to-quarter increase was a miniscule 0.3% one in Q2 of 2011.  It looks as if growth tends to regularly occur in Samsung’s second quarter.

Last quarter’s revenue growth helps to debunk rumors that Samsung was Continue reading

Is NAND Headed for Lower Bit Growth?

NAND Bit Growth has Been Headed Downward Throughout its LifeSomeone recently asked The Memory Guy to comment on a projection that NAND flash bit consumption was headed into a period of reduced growth.  This appears to have stemmed from a comment made by another memory analyst.

This drove me to compile this report’s graphic, which compares historical bit growth for DRAM (bottom, black line) against that of NAND flash (upper red line).  Although NAND started out with astronomical annual bit growth of nearly 250%, it declined in 2011 to around 70%.  This brings it closer to DRAM’s rate that ranges around 50%.

This is not cause for alarm – when the NAND market was very small bit growth was expected to be high.  Large demand upturns could be relatively easily accommodated.  Today’s multibillion-dollar capacity additions require more careful planning.  This is the Law of Large Numbers.

We are at a point where NAND bit growth will probably settle into a range similar to that of DRAM.  Consumption will be limited by economics, since production increases involve huge capital expenditures.

So, in a way, we are more headed out of a period of declining bit growth than going into one.

Objective Analysis has produced a report: Understanding the NAND Market, that is available for immediate download from our website.

Is DRAM Really a Profitless Business?

The Sum of all DRAM Profits 1991-2011A colleague recently asked me to verify that the DRAM business has had zero net profits over its entire history.  This is something he had heard at a technology event that really surprised him.

I have often heard this story myself, for DRAM as well as for flash (both NAND and NOR) but I had never put in the time to test the assertion.

This statement is certainly attention grabbing, and because of that presenters everywhere will find some way to include this “fact” into their slideshows.  “But is it true?” he asked me.

Well, I can’t call myself “The Memory Guy” without having an answer to this question, so I Continue reading

Toshiba to Cut NAND Production by 30%

Toshiba's Fab 5 in YokkaichiIn a surprise announcement Toshiba has said that it will immediately cut NAND flash production by approximately 30%.  The company explains that this is being done “to reduce inventory in the market and improve the overall balance between supply and demand.”  Toshiba’s release implies that this move is expected to improve prices, which have dropped as low as $0.31/GB recently.

By common measures of market share, which typically leave out SanDisk (for reasons too complex to discuss here) Toshiba holds a share of roughly 30% of the NAND flash market.  By cutting its output by 30% Toshiba would be reducing overall NAND supply by 10%.  If we were to include SanDisk, then that percentage would decrease to about 7.5%.  Either one of these is significantly more than Continue reading

Why DRAM Bit Growth will Suffer

Benchmarks show NAND advantage over DRAM in PCsIt seems that DRAM makers are still unaware of the impact NAND flash will have on DRAM revenues.  Even though many are paying a lot of attention to the impact of the Tablet PC on Notebook PC shipments, few understand that even a healthy notebook market will start to place a decreasing focus on the system DRAM in the near future.

The reason why is simple, and it’s explained in great detail in a report: How PC NAND will Undermine DRAM.  In a nutshell, once a basic minimum DRAM requirement has been met, NAND flash yields a greater performance return per dollar than does DRAM.  This is illustrated in the graphic to the left.

Forget about the fact that NAND flash is nonvolatile, and that it offers Continue reading

What is cMLC Flash?

cMLC - Commercial Multilevel Cell NAND FlashSome recent news mentioned cMLC flash, which is short for “consumer MLC.”  This term is used to differentiate between the cheapest available product, mainstream MLC, and products that are aimed at the computing segment, and thus carry higher price tags.

There are several of these higher-end products.   Some have longer endurance, like eMLC and SLC flash.  Some have faster interfaces, like ONFi and Toggle Mode.  Then there are the combinations of these: a fast interface with enhanced reliability.

There are disadvantages to these.  The consumer market Continue reading

Figuring Out Who Shipped What

Some Companies Count Some Chips and Not OthersToday I saw an announcement from another market research firm about a new report with flash memory market shares for 2011.  I found it remarkable that the way these chips are counted varies enough that the company decided to openly discuss this issue right in the press release for the report!

Memory market statistics are compiled by numerous firms: The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) sold in the US and Europe by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Gartner Dataquest, IHS iSuppli, Web Feet, Semico, Forward Insights, and even DRAMexchange.  Lots of entities use conflicting definitions of what is and what is not a chip.  This causes each company’s numbers to differ from the others’.

In the case of WSTS, a chip that is packaged with another chip into a board becomes Continue reading

How Cheap is Flash?

Fry's Advertisement: 32GB Patriot USB for $17The Memory Guy was a little surprised to see the advertisement in this post’s graphic.  It was from an April 8 newspaper ad for Fry’s Electronics.

It’s a little early to see NAND selling for this little: The original price of $21.99 for a 32GB USB flash drive comes to $0.69/GB, and the price after the rebate of $16.99 means that the price per gigabyte of the flash is only $0.53!

At the time the lowest spot market pricing for MLC flash on the InSpectrum spot price website was $0.53, and $0.47 for TLC.  According to DRAMeXchange MLC is selling for as little as $0.48.

That’s not a lot of margin for Patriot or Fry’s when you add in the cost of t Continue reading

Intel Sells NAND Assets

IMFT's Manassas Fab, one of Two Sold to MicronToday Intel divested itself of a portion of the assets of IMFT, the joint venture NAND flash manufacturing arm it shares with Micron Technology.  This is an effort by Intel to groom the business to better suit Intel’s evolving vision of its role in the NAND flash business.

Objective Analysis issued an Alert to our clients giving the “What, When, Why, and Where” of this deal.  The Alert can be downloaded for free from the Objective Analysis Reports page.


Jim Handy Objective Analysis Memory Market Research +1 (408) 356-2549 Jim.Handy (at)

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