Toshiba has announced it will be cutting back its supply of NAND flash memory.
Toshiba didn’t state a specific reason for ramping down production, though they did talk about a general trend when it came to “weak pricing” of storage products meant for consumer electronic devices, presumably due to nothing more than waning demand for what have pretty much become commodities at this point.
Indeed, Toshiba has stated that lagging market demand has affected mostly low end chips used in things like USB Flash drives and memory cards. This actually makes perfect sense as most consumers seem to already have a surplus of such devices, and unless we see the onset of an epidemic in which everyone starts misplacing their small storage devices, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. With hard drives always reaching new heights when it comes to enormous capacity, it seems most users will likely be able to hold on to their current products indefinitely, always eventually archiving their old stuff on today’s modern magnetic monsters.
They may be unbearably slow when compared to a screaming fast SSD, but when it comes to price per GB, they are pretty much unmatched. In fact, this reality may actually be at the very core of the supply issues Toshiba is facing at the moment, and perhaps underscores the notion that people don’t generally use small flash devices for long term data storage, always being in a perpetual cycle of archiving their data on an external medium. Quite simply, this type of usage pattern probably makes the most sense for most end users, as it makes efficient use of hardware.
Also of interest is Samsung, which, according to IHS iSuppli, has also seen drops in flash memory revenue, presumably due to the same issues that Toshiba is facing. So far, they haven’t announced any plans to cut back production on any of their flash memory products, but as with everything else in this industry, things can change in a heartbeat. If Samsung were to go ahead with price cuts, it would definitely bring to mind ideas of a dastardly scheme to make it costlier for end users to capture their precious moments on a digital medium. Such a scenario probably doesn’t actually coincide with reality, but if prices ended up increasing enough to truly get under someone’s skin, I’m sure the more paranoid among us would be the first to cry foul.
You may be wondering what role SSDs play in these production cutbacks, and whether they’ll see fluctuations in price as a result. Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t entirely clear, as the SSD market spans a wide range of price segments. Certainly, it seems that higher end products will remain unaffected, seeing as they don’t rely on lower grade flash parts. More value oriented SSDs, on the other hand, you know, lower end MLC and TLC based products, will most definitely be implicated when it comes to changes in production strategies. Actually, it may be that relatively low demand for these products is actually a contributing factor to the situation Toshiba and Samsung find themselves in at the moment. In any case, one thing we can be certain of is that supply and demand is a harsh mistress.
I just hope it isn’t consumers that end up feeling the biting sting of her whip.