Gartner says strong sales of iPods will drive growth of NAND Flash market in H2/06
Jun 28, 2006
55% of iPod shipments in Q1 of 2006 were NAND Flash-based players
Strong growth in the portable media player market is expected in 2006, as the market is forecast to reach 187.7 million units, up from 134.5 million units in 2005, according to Gartner, Inc. The demand for portable media players, especially the Apple iPod, is a significant driver of sales of NAND flash memory. NAND flash-based players accounted for 80 percent of the market in 2005. Hard disk drive (HDD)-based portable music players made up the remaining 20 percent of the market.
"Digital audio players are rapidly transitioning to multifunction portable media players incorporating music, video, photo and basic game capabilities," said Jon Erensen, senior research analyst for Gartner. "The next generation of portable media players will be driven by video playback capabilities, wireless technologies, and integration with consumer electronics and automobile entertainment systems."
"We expect Apple to introduce a new, high-end NAND flash-based iPod by the fourth quarter of 2006, and this player will most likely have 10GB to 12GB of storage capacity. The impact of an iPod with this storage capacity will have significant implications for the NAND flash market," said Mr Erensen.
In September 2005, Apple introduced the 4GB iPod nano priced at $249 and the 1GB iPod shuffle in January 2005 at $149. At the time, these NAND flash-based players represented the most aggressive pricing found in the portable media player market.
"Both of these introductions had a significant impact on the market, with competing vendors reacting by lowering prices and increasing capacities. Apple accelerated the highest available capacity, average capacity and lowered the cost per MB for NAND flash players with the shuffle and the nano, and we anticipate a similar course of events in the second half of 2006," said Mr. Erensen.
The current pricing environment for NAND flash-based players saw prices collapse in the first quarter of 2006, falling by 25 percent on average, with pricing soft in the second quarter before firming up in the second half of the year.
Gartner forecasts that a 16Gb (2GB) device will be available in the third quarter for about $30, down from its current price of about $35. Due to Apple's procurement power and investment, it is conceivable that it could get pricing for a device at $25 or even $20. This pricing would enable capacities of 12GB, leaving enough room for the remaining component and manufacturing costs as well as Apple's margin, while still reaching a $250 price point.
Gartner currently forecasts a 5.8 percent shortage of NAND flash supply in the fourth quarter of 2006 that will persist into the first quarter of 2007 with a 2.6 percent shortage. "If a high-capacity NAND-based iPod is introduced, the severity of the allocation will intensify during the fourth quarter of this year, and our outlook of supply and demand for the first quarter of 2007 could become more severe than initially anticipated," said Joseph Unsworth, principal research analyst for Gartner. "Pricing pressure from Apple also puts indirect pressure on competing consumer products, such as flash cards and USB flash drives, which are still the major drivers of the NAND flash market. All of these products compete for consumers' discretionary spending."
In addition, the dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) market has been a direct beneficiary of the strength in the NAND flash market as massive capacity was converted from DRAM to NAND flash in 2005. This synergy between DRAM and NAND technologies has greatly reduced the volatility of the DRAM cycle, which has been spread across several years and is much less severe.
"If NAND flash demand intensifies in response to an aggressive announcement from Apple, then it is expected that several suppliers will move additional DRAM capacity over to NAND flash in an effort to gain market share and diversify their memory portfolios," Mr. Unsworth said. "If this scenario comes to fruition, the prospects for the DRAM market in 2006 and 2007 could be much better than anticipated."
Additional information is available in the Gartner report "New iPods Will Spur 2H06 Recovery in NAND Flash." The report provides analysis and a forecast on the portable media player and NAND flash markets, shipments statistics for the Apple iPod, and analysis on future trends and growth drivers.