NEW YORK — The worldwide market for memory appeared to present a great divide between NAND Flash, which is doing very well, and NOR Flash, which continues to struggle, according to a February 24 report from IHS technology.
Thanks to embedded multimedia card, or eMMC, NAND memory achieved record shipments of more than 1 billion units in 2013 -- up 49% from 687 million units in 2012 -- while revenue increased by about 28% to $25.8 billion. On the other hand, NOR shipments slipped about 10% in 2013 for a total of 606 million units. Revenue fell 15% to approximately $3 billion.
On the whole, the flash market in 2013 totaled $28.8 billion, up from $23.7 billion a year ago.
eMMC has emerged rather quickly due to its economic benefits, as well as the greater density of flash-memory involved. As a result, eMMC has become prevalent in high-end smartphone and tablet devices.
"The key driver to NAND lies in its proliferating use for mobile consumer electronics, exemplified by the memory's increasingly widespread application in devices like smartphones, tablets and notebook PCs," Michael Yang, senior principal analyst for memory & storage at IHS, wrote in a statement. "Meanwhile, NOR's once-broad portfolio of applications in low-end mobile handsets and desktop PCs has mostly matured, and its next killer market has yet to manifest."
NAND memory -- both raw NAND and eMMC -- has become the standard memory used in smartphone devices, with the sole exception of the Apple iPhone, which utilizes its own managed NAND memory product.
Embedded NAND’s utility has recently transferred over from smartphones to tablets. Aside from the Surface Pro from Microsoft, which uses a SATA interface solid state drive, eMMC has become the standard memory configuration for a wide variety of tablets.
Meanwhile, the growth of eMMC has brought about a new wave of suppliers.
Samsung remains atop the market, but a growing cast of competitors, including Toshiba, SanDisk, and SK Hynix, have established themselves as well. However, 2014 does present its challenges. As the tablet and smartphone markets become saturated, there could be an oversupply of eMMC, which may lead to a decrease in average selling prices.
The NOR has been declining steadily since 2007. In 2006, the NOR market stood at $8 billion, and the technology once peaked at $9 billion -- three times its current revenue mark. Parallel NOR, once common in computers for boot-code execution and entry-level cellphones, will no longer appear in wireless devices. However, the other sub-category of NOR, serial peripheral interface or SPI, continues to appear in a broader range of wireless and consumer devices. Its advantage is its simplicity in design and low cost, especially for manufacturers of cheap cellphones.
Micron Technology and Spansion, the two prime makers of parallel NOR, have added SPI to their product lineups to adjust to this transformation. Both companies have sought to differentiate their offerings from those of SPI NOR suppliers including Macronix, Winbond Electronics, and GigaDevice.
IHS believes that -- although the growth of SPI NOR is helping to offset the decline of the NOR market -- the industry would be better off if the number of players was cut down to four. Right now, five suppliers command 75% of the market.
— Zewde Yeraswork, Associate Editor, EE Times