TORONTO — Micron executives continue to predict a future ripe with the opportunity for the company, even as financial markets appear to be less bullish on how the company will perform in the near future.
Last week, Micron held its 2015 Summer Analyst Day, where it provided a state of the union and where it's headed. Executives echoed much of what they said in a spring update and its most recent quarterly results.
The turbulence the company faced from slowing PC shipments has affected its DRAM business, acknowledged Micron CEO D. Mark Durcan during the event. "It really caught a number of us by surprise, but it's not a cataclysmic cycle," he said. Despite the PC slowdown, Micron is forecasting 25% growth for its DRAM business in 2015 and 24% in 2016.
Durcan also emphasized the diversification of end markets as a reason to be positive going forward. "It's created a situation where memory makers have a lot more opportunity to differentiate themselves and their offerings." Micron foresees this diversification of demand through 2019 with continued growth in mobile and enterprise markets as the client segment further declines. Durcan said embedded markets, such as automotive and industrial, remain steady.
Micron expects its recent investments in manufacturing and technology efficiencies to really start paying off in 2016. "We feel pretty good about continuing to invest through these cycles," said Durcan. "We believe there is continued growth ahead."
A significant part of that growth will be in NAND, said Micron president Mark Adams, with opportunities in SSDs and mobile. He noted the NAND market is more turbulent than the DRAM segment, and talked about the diversification of the memory business and Micron's presence in the networking, automotive and mobile segments. Adams also emphasized the company has not been a legacy memory business for the past few years. It's more than just silicon, he said; it's also about how it's packaged and the supporting software.
The memory business has changed, it hasn't changed as dramatically so much has shifted, Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis, told EE Times in a telephone interview following the event. "The business has changed from being single-focused to being broader focused. That said, there are certain parts that were with us in yesteryear and no longer with us now." Rather than being a PC and video memory business, said Handy, who attended the analyst day event, it's now a PC and mobile business.
In addition, he said, despite all of the different places memory can go now and the interesting opportunities in the memory business, "packaging is not as innovative as the chips themselves."
Together with Intel, Micron announced its 3D NAND technology in March
Handy's observation was that financial analysts were not as excited about the future of Micron as company executives were. He said there were many questions surrounding its 3D NAND technology, such as how many bits and how many layers. "If you can't make it, it doesn't matter," he said, noting that it's not in production yet, and that no one, including Samsung, yet knows how to make 3D NAND yield well, although Micron is bullish on it.
Scott DeBoer, Micron's VP of research and development, laid out the company's forward looking technologies, which include 3D NAND, Hybrid Memory Cube and 3D XPoint; Handy noted there was no mention of the Automata processor. The company and its partner Intel have yet to provide greater detail as to what's under the hood of 3D XPoint.
DeBoer said Micron's current key technology priorities include continuing yield and volume ramp of 3D NAND with enablement of its second generation 3D NAND in its Singapore fab; first wafers from the fab's expansion are due out next summer. On the DRAM front, Micron's 20nm yield is progressing to plan, he said.
From a technology perspective, Handy said Micron is focusing on the right things. "The most important thing is they have invested to catch up with the process leaders in DRAM." He said Micron had fallen behind in that area, making its costs higher.
Micron has been an opportunistic company and takes the higher price for its product whenever possible, Handy said, which has been to its benefit. However, "it's always wanted to be more diversified than it is, but it has not become a very diverse company."
—Gary Hilson covers memory and flash technologies for EE Times and is the editor of Memory Designline.