Analyst: iPod, Zune, servers to drive SSD growth

Solid-state drives will see heady growth despite the sliding world economy, according to a market research company.

Solid-state drives may see heady growth despite a sliding world economy, according to a report released Tuesday by a market research company. Devices like the Apple iPod and iPhone are expected to drive growth.

Micron Technology along with its partner Intel are challenging SSD market leaders Samsung and Toshiba, In-Stat said
Micron Technology along with its partner Intel are challenging SSD market leaders Samsung and Toshiba, In-Stat said Micron

Flash memory revenue in the solid-state drive segment will see compound annual growth rates of over 100 percent through 2012, according to market research firm In-Stat. The type of flash used in solid-state drives is referred to as NAND flash.

"You're starting from quite a small base. Back in 2006, you're in the tens of millions (of dollars) kind of a number. By 2012, you're easily over five billion. So the growth rates do get rather high," said Ian Lao, a senior analyst at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat. The market researcher forecasts compound annual growth at 106 percent from 2006 through 2012, Lao said.

In the consumer segment, Lao says he expects to see most of the growth in small devices like portable music players and smart phones. Music players such as the Apple iPod and Microsoft Zune will adopt solid-state drives instead of the tiny 1.8-inch hard disk drives they use now because of better durability and shock resistance. "They suffer the risk of, hey, I just dropped my Zune, it doesn't work anymore," Lao said. SSDs will provide much greater reliability, he said.

And as smart phones become more PC-like, they will graduate from relatively simple flash drives to more sophisticated SSDs with the same Serial ATA (SATA) interfaces used in PCs today, Lao said. An iPhone, for example, with a more computer-like operating system and features would use an SSD, Lao said.

Future ultra-portable laptops, represented today by the MacBook Air and HP Voodoo Envy 133, will also drive SSD growth, as will Netbooks.

Sharp growth will also be seen in the corporate enterprise market. SSDs will, in an increasing number of cases, replace very-high-speed hard disk drives in server environments, Lao said.

Flash drives (non-SSD) will remain widely used in various music players, mobile handsets, after-market cards, and USB flash drives, with a combined market share of more than 80 percent during the next couple of years, according to the report. However, this percentage will drop to about 70 percent by 2012, as SSDs grow in importance, the report said.

Worldwide NAND flash revenues are likely to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 29.7 percent from 2007 to 2012 to reach $61 billion, In-Stat said. Revenues for NOR flash--used, for example, to store program code in cell phones--will increase at a 6 percent compound annual growth rate from 2007 through 2012.

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