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Apple will account for quarter of 2012's entire NAND flash production

Apple products will use 8 billion gigabytes of flash memory over the year

Though the growth of ultrabooks is set to help increase the global NAND flash market by 8 percent in 2012, Apple will consume a quarter of the NAND flash modules produced this year.

That's according to the IHS iSuppli Data Flash Market Tracker report, which shows that Apple will consume about 25 percent of the overall NAND supply in 2012, equivalent to some 8 billion gigabytes.

The iPad will be responsible for 74 percent of NAND consumption in the tablet segment this year, accounting for 2.8 billion gigabytes out of a total 3.8 billion gigabytes in tablets, IHS iSuppli predicts. The iPhone, with an average density that is more than two times that of other smartphones, will consume more than 3.2 billion gigabytes in 2012.

The remaining billion or so gigabytes Apple is responsible for will be consumed by the MacBook Air and the iPod touch, the other current Apple products that use NAND flash memory, while there is a possibility that new MacBook Pros with SSD (solid-state drives) could get in on the act too.

The smartphone market is one of the biggest consumers of NAND flash, IHS says, with smartphone shipments this year expected to hit 626 million units, with an average NAND flash content of 9 gigabytes per unit. This will work out to 5.7 billion gigabytes of flash memory in all.

Despite the success of the iPad, though, the tablet market is only expected to account for 12 percent of the NAND flash market in 2012. Ultrabooks will be another major driver for NAND flash production, IHS iSuppli reckons, with some 3.3 billion gigabytes of flash being used in SSDs over the course of the year.

"Given the lukewarm performance of the tablet segment last year, there was some trepidation coming into 2012 for the NAND industry," said Michael Yang, senior principal analyst for memory & storage at IHS.

"But even though most NAND manufacturers had planned to be on the fast track in 2012 to increase production at newly built fabs, each supplier has since reduced capital spending compared to its original plans, electing to moderate supply expansions to allow demand to catch up. Such a strategy will avoid a precipitous price decline that the industry won't be able to withstand, leading to more optimism for a stronger 2012."

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