Despite the rocketlike sales performances of iPhones and various Android smartphones for the last six years, the IT industry has known all along that it eventually was going to level off.
Now it has happened. After all, there are 7.166 billion people in the world as of today, and there are an estimated 5 billion devices now in use; the term "saturation" comes to mind.
That's not the whole story. More than half of all users have two or more connected mobile devices, so they don't need to buy new ones with the frequency they have in the past.
As a result of this inevitable leveling-off event, companies that produce components for these devices have had to make adjustments in their corporate strategies. Samsung, the world's largest supplier of both NAND flash storage disks and smartphones, is a prime example.
The Korean IT giant on July 18 offered an indication that it is refocusing more of its attention on enterprise and consumer storage when it came out with a swift—and capacious—1.6TB NAND flash drive.
The new low-power, 2.5-inch solid-state drive for high-end enterprise storage systems will provide a substantial boost in terms of read/write performance over competing products, Samsung said.
Samsung's high-speed NVM Express XS1715 SSD is available in 400GB, 800GB and 1.6TB capacities. The 1.6TB version features sequential read speed at an astonishing 3,000MB per second, "which allows it to process 500GB of data (equivalent to 100 Full HD movies 5GB in length) in less than three minutes," Samsung said in a statement.
If this performance is indeed true, this sequential read performance is about 14 times faster than the current fastest high-end mechanical hard disk drives and six times swifter than Samsung's previous top-of-the-line SSD solution for storage.
The 1.6TB SSD costs $650; a similar-capacity hard disk drive by biggest manufacturer Western Digital sells for less than $100. That huge price differential is still a deal breaker for many enterprises that would like to move more of their systems to SSDs.
This is not to say that Samsung is going to let up on producing chips for smartphones because there is still plenty of demand—it's just not as acute as it has been.
Only last week, Samsung—the world's largest producer of solid-state flash processors—and bitter smartphone rival Apple reportedly put together a new chip-making deal as part of Apple's effort to multiply its ship suppliers. A report in the Korea Economic Daily July 15 said that Samsung will build 14-nanometer A9 chips that will be used in upcoming iPhones and iPads.
Reuters reported July 18 that global demand for SSDs is expected to grow by 75 percent this year to 78 million units, according to the Nomura chip brokerage. Shipments of NAND chips for use in smartphones are expected to increase by 41 percent, down from 44 percent last year and 58 percent in 2011, as smartphone sales growth starts to wane.
Daewoo Securities projects that SSDs will comprise nearly a quarter of all flash memory sales this year, up from 15 percent; this proportion is expected to rise to 45 percent by 2015.
Samsung accounts for around 40 percent of the global NAND flash market and competes with Toshiba, Micron Technology and SK Hynix. In the SSD market, it competes with Toshiba, Sandisk and Intel.
eWEEK Senior Editor Jeff Burt contributed to this story.