Could Samsung, reportedly the ousted manufacturer of processors for Apple, be able to control the Silicon Valley company by putting it on a rationed supply of NAND flash memory? How should Apple respond to the danger?
In 2011 Apple became the biggest purchaser of NAND flash memory in the
world and its use of NAND flash surged in 2012. And in 2012 Samsung was
the biggest maker of NAND flash memory with 38 percent market share,
according to market researcher IHS. The other suppliers
were Toshiba with 28 percent, Micron with 14 percent, SK Hynix with 12
percent and Intel with 8 percent, according to IHS (see NAND flash market surged in Q4). As much Toshiba's output is for SanDisk Corp it can be seen that there are not many options for buying NAND flash memory.
2012 and previous years there was an oversupply of NAND flash memory
which kept prices low and ensured plenty of supply. But it is looking
likely that 2013 will see an undersupply of NAND flash and increased
average selling prices. Now as Apple is the largest, or close to the largest, purchases of NAND flash memory it does have purchasing clout. But it also has the biggest need and could see problems if NAND flash memory suppliers start to mutter the dreaded "A" word; allocation.
And as Samsung is itself a major supplier of smart televisions, computers, tablet computers and smartphones, all of which
are already, or are likely to become, major users of NAND flash memory
either in discrete form or solid-state drives, one can imagine that more
of Samsung's output will be reserved for its own needs. As the largest producer of NAND flash Samsung is likely to be one of very few electronic equipment makers that will not see a shortage of the non-volatile memory.
It is a
questionable practice under anti-trust legislation around the world to
tie the selling of processors to the purchase of memory. However, for
Samsung to tell Apple it can't supply as much NAND flash memory as Apple
would like because it needs the lion's share for its own tablets and
smartphones would be a subtler matter.