Wait-and-See Atmosphere Results in Mostly Flat DRAM prices
As some downstream clients still have enough inventory on-hand, most clients are unwilling to significantly increase purchase volume prior to the holiday. Instead, they are choosing to reduce risk by waiting until after Chinese New Year to replenish inventory based on holiday sales results. Additionally, after suppliers endured significant price decreases to stimulate sales in 2H11, in order to reduce profit erosion from price declines, lately price decreases have shrunk. Therefore, 1HJan. NAND Flash contract price stayed flat for the most part, with a few suppliers making slight downward adjustments for only 2xnm-node 32Gb and 64Gb MLC chip contract price.The future NAND Flash market will be influenced by the following market factors:1. The European debt crisis continues to cause a stir on financial markets, resulting in concerns towards global economic recovery in 2012. However, with European financial integration to take place via political negotiations at the end of January, there is hope that cooperation will result in a satisfactory solution. Meanwhile, certain international organizations will also focus on the European debt issues in 1Q12, coordinating with major nations to propose collaborative action that will help cope with the economic instability. Thus, uncertainties caused by the European debt crisis may gradually dissipate after 1Q12.2. As China’s domestic economy remains steady, Chinese New Year holiday sales is expected to be stable, which will benefit post-holiday client inventory replenishment demand.3. Ultrabook and tablet PC models exhibited at the international Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will stimulate new demand for SSD, NAND Flash cache, and eMMC in 1Q12.4. Certain system clients may unveil new tablet PC or smartphone models in 1Q12, which could also bring new NAND Flash inventory restocking demand.5. Beginning in February, some NAND Flash suppliers will gradually increase the proportion of 20nm-class process products to strengthen cost competitiveness, which will also increase NAND Flash bit output volume.Comprehensive analysis of the above factors indicates that after the Chinese New Year long holiday, supported by inventory replenishment demand, NAND Flash contract price may cease falling and stabilize in the short term. However, the price trend in the traditionally weak season of 1H12 will still depend on the unveiling effect from new NAND Flash end products, the status of global economic recovery, and NAND Flash suppliers’ capacity adjustment plans.Three Highlights of CES 2012 to Stimulate NAND Flash Demand, SSD Unit Cost May Fall Below US$1 in Late 3Q12According to TrendForce research, with ultrabooks, tablet PCs, and USB3.0 taking center stage at CES 2012, demand for related NAND Flash applications such as SSD and eMMC will see explosive growth. Benefitting from universal integration of USB 3.0 slots on Intel’s new platforms, USB 3.0 flash drive and external hard drive penetration rate will increase as well. Overall, all smart mobile devices will continue to stimulate improvements in internal storage media performance and capacity, while NAND Flash cost will decrease quarterly as process technology advances. TrendForce expects SSD unit cost may dip below the US$1 mark at the end of 3Q as the newest process technology products officially enter mass production.TrendForce believes the biggest highlight of CES 2012 was ultrabook products. As PCs are facing fierce competition from smartphones as well as rapid cannibalization by tablet PCs, TrendForce forecasts this year’s industry growth rate at a mere 10% or so. Up against Apple’s celebrity-status product, the MacBook Air, other vendors must place their focus not only on ultrabook product performance – ultrabook prices must be able to compete with the MacBook Air. Many makers will introduce new ultrabook models around late 1Q to early 2Q as the new Ivy Bridge platform hits the market. This will stimulate SSD cache applications, and mainstream capacity will be 16GB/32GB. Ultrabook market share is expected to increase rapidly beginning in 3Q, with a forecasted 10% of total notebook shipments in 2012, which will also benefit the SSD market. SSD NAND Flash consumption volume will increase significantly, from 5.1% in 2011 to 15% in 2012, to become the category with the strongest growth momentum amongst the numerous NAND Flash application products.