Major storage player Toshiba made an impressive comeback in the first quarter of 2012 in the NAND flash storage market, after two major revenue declines in 2011 and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Defying an industry wide contraction in revenue, Toshiba surged to double-digit growth, posting NAND sales revenue of $1.71 billion in the first quarter, up 19 percent from $1.43 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a report from IT research firm IHS.
Toshiba still ranks behind the top dog in the NAND flash storage space, Samsung; however, Toshibas inventory carryover from the fourth quarter of 2011 allowed the company to out-ship most of its competitors in the first quarter of this year, according to the IHS report. Toshibas strong first-quarter performance gave the company a 34 percent share of the worldwide market, up from 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Toshibas improved performance in the first quarter came after a troubling 2011, Dee Nguyen, memory analyst at IHS, said in a prepared statement. Last year, the companys NAND market share saw two major declines. The first drop came during the second quarter because of disrupted production stemming from the Japan earthquake-tsunami disaster in March. The second decline arrived during the fourth quarter when uncertain market conditions necessitated a carryover of inventory into the first quarter this year. Toshibas strong results show that the company has regained its footing and has put a tumultuous year behind it.
Overall, however, the market for NAND flash, which can be found in a wide variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and solid-state drives (SSDs) found in thinner, faster notebooks like Apples MacBook Air or Intels Ultrabook line, was dragged down by weak pricing, which the report noted reflected the mismatch between an industry wide growth in supply and a seasonally slow quarter for consumer demand. Total first-quarter NAND flash sales amounted to $4.99 billion, down 1 percent from $5.05 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.
Samsung posted revenue of $1.86 billion, down sequentially from $1.94 billion but still good enough for first place and a 37 percent share, followed by Toshiba. U.S.-based Micron Technology, with revenue of $846 million, equivalent to a 17 percent market share, SK Hynix Semiconductor of South Korea, with revenue of $556 million for an 11 percent market share, and Powerchip of Taiwan, posting revenue of $17 million for approximately 0.3 percent market share, rounded out the top five industry players.
Overall, Toshiba continues to narrow the gap with NAND market leader Samsung, with the race for No. 1 expected to further heat up during this year, the report concluded. The battle for third place will also continue between Micron, currently comfortable in its lead, against Hynix, which now appears willing to spend its way to the top and tackle competitors head on to remain a viable player in the space.