Apple, yet again, is being painted as the reason for a predicted shortage in flash memory, used in everything from digital cameras to iPhones. The iPhone and iPad, along with a predicted avalanche of imitators, could create “insatiable demand” for flash (or NAND) memory in 2010, according to research firm iSuppli.
Analyst Michael Young forecasts the average iPhone sold in 2010 will use 35.2 GB of flash memory. Multiply that by the 33 million iPhones expected to sell this year (up from 25.1 million in 2009) and it is “likely to lead to some periods of under-supply for the year.”
The words of caution have a familiar sound. About this time last year, Apple was preparing to refresh its iconic handset, a move that was “stifling the supply chain,” ThinkEquity analyst Vijay Rakesh said at the time. Later in 2009, a “serious shortage” of flash memory was reported and Apple’s iPod was blamed for an expected Christmas-time NAND shortage.
Perhaps these frequent shortages should be seen as normal. The problem may not be increasing demand but a static supply. A 2009 DrameXchange report said although flash memory demand is expected to rise 81 percent this year, supply will only grow by 79 percent. A potential increase in the supply of flash memory may come from a new venture by chip manufacturing giant Intel and memory maker Micron, known as IM Flash. The new company may take up the slack from Samsung and other current NAND suppliers.