Business Strategies

Is Apple Losing Dollars to Save a Few Cents?

Is Apple Losing Big Bucks by Trimming its Costs by a Few Cents?An article in a recent issue of Business Korea posits that Apple may be having trouble stemming from the company’s adoption of TLC flash in it’s new iPhone 6.

The article states:

considering that technical defects mainly occur in the 128GB version of the iPhone 6 Plus, there might be a problem in the controller IC of triple-level cell (TLC) NAND flash.

The problem has led to numerous warranty replacements and the looming prospects of a recall.

(Note that Continue reading

Is the DRAM Market Entering a Shortage?

DRAM Spot Prices are Consistently above ContractLong-term clients of mine, even those dating back to my decade at Dataquest in the 1990s, are familiar with the concept that spot prices behave differently during a shortage.  When there is too much DRAM spot prices remain below contract prices, because OEMs who bought too much product clear their inventory at quarter end (and other times) by selling at a loss.

During a shortage the opposite is true: OEMS find that they can’t get as much DRAM as they wanted through their contract sources, so they shop for the balance on the spot market.  Since there are more buyers than sellers, spot prices invariably raise higher than contract prices.

When the prices change from one state of affairs to the other then it is safe to assume that Continue reading

SIA: Memories Drive Record Semi Revenues

SIA LogoThe SIA yesterday released the WSTS semiconductor sales data for September.  Monthly revenues reached a record $27 billion driving third-quarter revenues to their own record of $81 billion.  This was the seventh straight month of semiconductor growth, the first such run-up since 2010.

This quote, by SIA CEO Brian Toohey really caught The Memory Guy’s eye: “Sales of memory products have increased sharply compared to last year and continue to be a major driver of industry growth.”

A lot has been happening to drive this increase in memory revenues: The recent SK hynix fire increased DRAM prices, but Continue reading

Samsung Announces 3D NAND Production

Toshiba's BiCS 3D NAND 2007 diagramSamsung has announced production of its 3D NAND technology.  This approach, first introduced by Toshiba in 2007, allows NAND flash makers to achieve more bits per chip by building NAND strings, which normally run across the surface of the chip, as vertical stacks.

It’s a fascinating technology, since it harnesses exotic steps invented by DRAM makers in the 1990s to get over scaling problems in that technology.  At the time DRAM had to go vertical to follow Moore’s Law and there were two schools of vertical DRAM: Stacked Capacitor, and Trench Cell.  The stacked capacitor camp layered polysilicon and silicon dioxide into layers to form a vertical capacitor.  The trench camp etched a very narrow and deep hole into the silicon and lined it with the capacitor plates.  Both worked very well, but over time the trench makers have Continue reading

Does the ‘Windows Bump’ Really Exist?

Windows Introductions vs DRAM Bit GrowthDRAM manufacturers often refer to “The Windows Bump” – a phenomenon that is believed to occur after every release of a new version of the Windows operating system.  According to this theory DRAM demand increases for a period following an introduction.

An example: in a recent article Kingston VP Scott Chen said that an increase in sales for Windows 8 might help raise DRAM demand, leading to more stable prices.

Demand is expected to pick up on the upcoming launch of Windows 8 tablets and Ultrabook PCs later in the second half of 2012.

Does the Windows Bump really exist?  The Memory Guy thought Continue reading

Adesto Acquires Atmel’s Serial NOR Business

Atmel Sells Serial Flash Business to AdestoIt’s not often that a small private firm acquires a part of a larger public firm, but that’s what happened today with Atmel and Adesto.  Adesto, a manufacturer of alternative memory technology, has purchased Atmel’s serial NOR flash business for an undisclosed sum.

The transaction covers the Atmel “Data Flash” and “BIOS Flash” product families and the employees supporting those products.  Atmel has retained its Serial EEPROM, Crypto and Digital Temperature Sensor memory product lines and plans to continue to invest in those businesses.

This is not a small thing.  Serial NOR now accounts for roughly 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

DensBits – Making TLC Act Like MLC

DensBits' Soft Decoding yields 15x better ECC than 24-bit BCHDensBits, an Israeli start-up, has introduced a new technology and a new product today.  The company’s new eMMC controller, the DB3610, embodies DensBits’ “Memory Modem” technology, which is a blend of ECC, DSP, and flash management that the company says can give TLC flash endurance superior to that of MLC flash with performance nearly as good as competing controllers can provide with MLC.

That’s a big claim!

DensBits’ Memory Modem views NAND flash as a noisy communications channel, using those algorithms developed to support deep Continue reading

Why DRAMs are Like Steel

The McKinsey Consulting Steel ModelOver lunch today I had a conversation with an alum of McKinsey Consulting who remarked that the DRAM business behaved in a way that was similar to the McKinsey Steel Model.  For those unfamiliar with this model I found a slideshow HERE that refers to it a good deal.  (So far I have not found a tutorial on the model itself, but if anyone knows were to find it The Memory Guy would highly appreciate hearing about it.)

One interesting thing is that this particular McKinsey alum was not the first to point this out to me.  About 15 years ago a family friend/McKinsey alum told me exactly the same thing.  It seems that the economics of the DRAM business have changed little over the past 15 years, and the McKinsey steel model applies to DRAMs just as well now as it did then.

In a nutshell, the model posits that the market price for 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