Toshiba Experiences Rapid Growth, But Still Second in NAND Flash Market

Toshiba enjoyed rapid growth in the NAND flash memory market for the third quarter of 2009, but still remains in second place behind Samsung Electronics. The average selling price for NAND flash memory has grown in the last two quarters as manufacturers work their way through a considerable oversupply from the end of 2008. Toshiba and Samsung have long competed fiercely for the market, with Toshiba scoring a coup earlier this year with a deal to supply NAND to Apple for its popular iPhone.

Toshiba's share of the global NAND flash memory market expanded rapidly in the third quarter of 2009, according to a new research note by iSuppli. That surge allows Toshiba to remain solidly in second place within that market, behind Samsung Electronics.

The report found that Toshiba experienced a year-over-year market-share gain of 57.2 percent, bringing its total market share to 34.6 percent at the end of the quarter. Furthermore, the company also experienced a 47.5 percent rise over the second quarter of 2009, indicating a rapid growth rate.

By contrast, Samsung experienced a year-over-year market-share gain of 23.4 percent, and 15.5 percent growth over the second quarter of 2009.

"Toshiba in the third quarter was able to capitalize on favorable NAND market conditions with its expanded capacity and high Average Selling Price (ASP)," Michael Yang, iSuppli's senior analyst for memory and storage, wrote in a Dec. 17 statement. "The company was able to expand its shipments. Furthermore, the company is the leader in production of three-bit-per-cell parts, which have lower manufacturing costs, thus improving profitability."

Three-bit-per-cell flash allows triple the traditional amount of data to be stored on a memory device's individual cells. In Toshiba's case, it is often used in consumer storage media such as USB and microSD devices.

However, Toshiba continued to come in second behind Samsung Electronics with regard to overall market-share, with the latter claiming 39.3 percent to Toshiba's 34.6 percent. Hynix was in third with 10 percent of the market, followed by Micron Technology with 7.7 percent, Intel with 6.1 percent, and Numonyx with 2.3 percent.

After fierce competition with Samsung that forced NAND prices dramatically downwards throughout 2008, Toshiba received at least one bright spot of good news in 2009: in July, Apple announced that it had entered into a long-term agreement with Toshiba to supply the California computer-maker with NAND flash memory for its iPhones and iPods. The iPhone utilizes the solid-state flash disks for both storage and computation, and the popularity of that device has helped ease a yearlong glut in the NAND market.

Earlier in the year, Apple made an advance payment of $500 million to Toshiba, which has added production capacity in 2008 through a deal with SanDisk.

Helping boost flash-memory manufacturers' bottom lines is the increase in average selling prices for NAND flash. Having reduced their production in the wake of the oversupply of NAND, those companies have been experiencing a rise in average selling prices of 18.5 percent for the second quarter of 2009 and 40 percent in the third quarter. But the average selling price is also expected to decrease by 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, according to an estimate by iSuppli.

"In 2009, NAND flash suppliers decided they no longer wanted to bleed red ink," Yang continued in his statement. "By shutting down some of their 200-millimeter production lines, the NAND flash suppliers were able to reverse the oversupply, boosting prices and expanding market revenue."

Over the last year, Intel's percentage of the NAND flash memory market has climbed by 90.5 percent, indicating that the company may climb the rankings in 2010 with speed.