As consumers snap up tablets in increasing numbers, the use of NAND flash memory for the popular devices in 2011 will explode almost fivefold, according to new IHS iSuppli research.
Tablet consumption of NAND flash is expected in 2011 to soar to 2.3 billion gigabytes (GB), up a phenomenal 382.4 percent from 476.8 million GB in 2010, reflecting a 4.8 times increase in 1-GB-equivalent units during the past year. Shipments of NAND for tablets show no sign of slowing down in the years to come, eventually hitting 12.3 billion GB by 2014.
NAND is used in tablets mainly for the storage of content, such as books, photos, music and movies. The proportion of NAND flash use among tablets, measured against the total supply of NAND memory, will jump to 11.8 percent in 2011, significantly up from 4.3 percent last year. By 2014, that figure will climb to 16 percent.
“The bump in NAND consumption among tablets is likely to come from devices such as Apple Inc.’s iPad as well as a raft of tablet devices powered by the rival Android operating system, expected to hit the market this year,” said Dee Nguyen, analyst for memory and storage at IHS. “Together, the iPad and Android-based tablets form one strand of the tablet experience offered by manufacturers—one centering on Internet-based media consumption. For such tablets, internal storage capacity is less an issue because the devices are intended to provide entertainment, not a full PC computing experience.”
Average memory densities will range from 27.1GB for non-iPad slates to 41.5GB in the iPad.
A second strand of tablet use, Nguyen said, proposes a PC computing experience, replete with the full suite of products from Microsoft Corp. and offered on the Windows/Intel platform. Such tablet devices—exemplified by models to come from Lenovo Corp., Samsung Electronics and Hewlett-Packard—come with generally 32-64GB of solid state storage. In an environment of strong NAND pricing, this density range is the highest that can be offered by manufacturers while still maintaining costs.
Nonetheless, because more memory cannot be provided for Windows/Intel tablets without driving the cost out of the sweet spot for pricing, the value proposition they provide is not as compelling as their Apple/Android counterparts, IHS maintains.
Windows-based tablets also lose on another count. Though their rival media-consumption tablets with lower storage requirements means fewer NAND flash shipments, a greater adoption rate by consumers makes up for the difference, so tablets like the iPad end up contributing significantly to NAND consumption by 2012.
Ultimately, the NAND landscape appears to favor entertainment-focused tablets over computing-oriented models. The high density requirements for PC tablets will necessitate higher prices for the devices, which could deter the majority of consumers. Conversely, tablet makers will be pressured to hit the sweet spot in pricing, which will serve to place limits on the amount of flash memory that goes into each unit in order to keep tablet prices low.
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