Tag: Toshiba

Micron front runner to buy Elpida shares

Micron is tipped to be the front runner to aquire bankrupt memory manufacturer Elpida, according to industry sources.

The company is said to be prepared to splash around up to $1.5 billion for the rival, pushing it ahead of the likes of Toshiba and Globalfoundries.

Elpida is facing bids from chip companies after racking up $5.5 billion in debts and being unable to pay them. It announced its bankruptcy late last month and was quickly dumped by old friend Hitachi, which sold off all its shares in the company.

Hynix also proved that it was out for what it could get and showed no remorse for the company when it proudly announced that it had seen a “marked growth” in the number of clients asking to secure big DRAM orders.

Some industry watchers originally thought that Samsung would be a main contender in the bidding war, however, it distanced itself from the company – telling TechEye that it had no plans to jump in Elpida’s grave.

This left Micron, Toshiba and Globalfoundries as potential candidates to get a piece of the chip company.  

According to Tom’s Hardware, Elpida’s value lies mainly its Hiroshima manufacturing facility, which is estimated to be worth about $1 billion. It is believed that this is the main attraction for bidders who would pay more if they had to build a plant from scratch.

Micron does have some cash to splash with its balance sheet listing around $2.1 billion in available cash and short term investments.

It’s also been buying more into the market recently acquiring Intel’s shares in the flash memory joint-venture IM Flash.

Western Digital strangely unworried by SSDs

Western Digital reckons that the hype around Ultrabooks is unlikely to hurt its HDD business any time soon.

According to Danny Mauerhofer, head of communications for EMEA & India, Western Digital is not expecting a big challenge from the increasing popularity of SSDs.

Despite claims that SSDs are edging their way into becoming a truly mainstream product, Mauerhofer reckons that they are “not complete” just yet, and unlikely to challenge in either the consumer or business space.

Mauerhofer believes that there’s little to show that HDDs will take a battering, even with cloud computing on the increase there is a clear need for large amounts of storage with strong demand from datacentres, but even in consumer devices there is little to show that HDDs will take a battering he reckons.

Mauerhofer says that in the halls of CeBit, hype has surrounded netbooks in years gone by with claims at the time that they would use flash drives by the bucket load.  This hasn’t transpired and Western Digital does not appear to be overly concerned about a new wave of mobile devices which are heralded as helping bring SSDs to the masses.

Even if the Ultrabook performs well, Western Digital does not believe that many devices will feature HDDs, and the format is still in its infancy, he says.

Large costs for building factories are also a problem, WD said to us.

Western Digital is obviously not shying away from HDD production.  The firm is about to announce the final details of its $4.5 billion deal to take over Hitachi.

The deal has been pushed back, with Mauerhofer telling us that the regulatory frame work has been very “time consuming”.  He remained tight lipped on further details regarding the deal, with more info on its way with an announcement soon.

HDD business to become Mexican standoff

The HDD business will soon become a three-way shoot-out, with only Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba to provide mechanical storage media for our storage hunger.

After a few years of consolidation and general HDD upheaval, the market is now reduced to just three players who control the entire hard drive business. These three players, despite standing under the apparent fallout of the Thai flooding, are now in a privileged position to make a tidy sum.

Seagate completed its acquisition of Samsung’s HDD business at the end of 2011, and through this has also tapped some cutting edge NAND kit to boost its hybrid drive lineup.

Western Digital, on the other hand, will see final approval on the acquisition of Hitachi GST (née IBM), bar freak accidents, later this month, but has been forced to find a buyer for part of its 3.5-inch HDD business to see approval from market regulators.

This leaves Toshiba, which has traditionally been very strong in the mobile HDD business, to pick up the leftover 3.5-inch business at Hitachi. WD will absorb Hitachi, two of its 3.5-inch HDD plants will be traded to Toshiba, and WD will in turn receive a 2.5-inch HDD manufacturing facility, leveling out the two partners’ capacities in both segments.

Toshiba, despite being the smallest of the three remaining players, is the one with the most SSD experience, and can now vertically integrate several market segments, from consumer to enterprise to ultramobility.

 

WD versus Seagate

Notwithstanding the maneuvering taking place in the foreground, 2011 was marked by floods in Thailand that stalled HDD shipments and essentially threw off the entire PC market as supply fell to an estimated 40 percent of its pre-flooding level. Most PC companies revised their numbers based on the overall recession period, but the official line was the HDD shortage.

Seagate, on the other hand, counted its blessings as the flood in Thailand – all things considered – was an act of a benevolent God.

According to Fang Zhang, storage analyst at IHS iSuppli, Seagate was by mere coincidence spared the brunt of the disaster as it had both its factories on high ground, while not a single WD facility escaped the rising waters. Toshiba’s HDD facility in Thailand was also hit hard. This generated a windfall for Seagate as it became the prime supplier of hard-drives in the last quarter of 2011, according to an iSuppli report. Western Digital had 60 percent of its total HDD manufacturing capacity submerged under the raging flood waters.

Below you can see the role-reversal. WD lost the top spot while falling to almost two-thirds of its prior market share. Seagate took over the top spot… and then some.

HDD Market Share Q3, Q4 2011 - Source: iSuppli

In a post-consolidation world, at Q4-2011 shares, this will look somewhat like this, however, Techeye believes this will come closer to a 40/40/20 split as production resumes at WD and Toshiba takes on some 3.5-inch drive capacity.

Post-consolidation 2012 HDD share estimate

Although supply crashed, average selling prices (ASPs) jumped – for all manufacturers – and the only real problem now is how to handle the demand. With the average selling price shooting up, gross margins reached record highs. WD, for example, had its gross margin rise from $46 to $69, a 32.5 percent increase.

No tears were shed at the company HQ, we are sure.

Post-Thai flooding, HDD manufacturers are now in control of a business they had let run amok. Their two primary concerns being how to keep up their Long Term Agreements (LTA), which usually account for the biggest slice of their business means getting PC OEMs, ODMs vendors and build-to-order their precious storage kit in ample supply. The other concern is to manage the product mix, while it is tempting to think the triumvirate will churn out 3 and 4TB drives like there is no tomorrow, it will have to switch around capacities to keep up with their supply contracts… of course that signing up for a LTA as soon as possible will guarantee you the best deal, and Seagate is counting on that.

Everyone else will basically be on a morphine drip waiting for something to fall out of the back of a truck.

Unfortunately for consumers and businesses, HDDs will be in short supply for the remainder of the year, say the HDD manufacturers. Seagate estimates that supply will reach around 80% of its former maximum by the end of 2012. This reflects both the market consolidation and the time it takes to retool/rebuild after the Thai flood. The truth will be somewhere in between.

The Thai flood has also given the HDD business much to think about, in particular in what regards to future processes and products. Vertical integration was already the order of the day, but most HDD manufacturers are looking to leverage hybrid drives as the next big thing. and vertical integration is the easiest way to go.

This particular expression was dropped by Pat O’Malley, Seagate CFO, a couple of times during the Morgan Stanley conference last week. Seagate hasn’t been completely blind to the market’s ebb and flow, and part of the company’s reasoning behind the Samsung storage acquisition was to provide Seagate with the technology and tools they needed to outpace their competitors in the hybrid market.

During the course of 2012, it will be clear that hybrid drives were the ‘next big thing’ and all three of the HDD players will move into hybrid disk drives as fast as their factories can spit them out. Hybrid drives provide plentiful storage, with today’s platter capacities and blistering fast reads and writes to its small Flash cells. Prices, despite being clearly higher than your traditional HDD, aren’t over the top.

Then come the niche markets that offer better margins than your ‘standard’ consumer desktop. Intel has been pushing hard for its Ultrabook initiative to be a major success and despite it being received enthusiastically by PC manufacturers – as an opportunity to match up against Apple’s Macbook Air – it’s greatest virtue might be pushing out the door 7mm hybrid drives.

O’Malley had previously taken the opportunity to touch base with Intel Ultrabook partners by laying out the ground rules for being on the gravy train: you have to be able to make 7mm-thick (0.3-inch).

Seagate, Hitachi and Toshiba are currently the only hard-drive manufacturers to carry 7mm drives in their product portfolios; however the WD takeover at Hitachi means that all three main players will be able to manufacture the premium format, so expect Seagate to push hard and push fast for this to come to happen.

By the end of 2012, the three main HDD manufacturers will have restocked their components, repaired their factories and realigned their product mixes. They will also have happened to have made a tidy profit, despite the expenses, and ridden off into the sunset.

60 Intel Ultrabooks promised at, er, show

There are already 15 Ultrabooks available from Intel customers and the number is set to soar to over 60 during the course of 2012. But Dell is, oddly, missing from the long list that Intel provided.

Early adopters, however, might like to wait for Ivy Bridge ystems coming this spring.

The list of OEMs and ODMs producing machines based on Intel’s design include Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, LG, Toshiba, and Samsung. We saw the Lenovo one last night – this was very nice. And we saw the LG Z30 and Z430 today – the first of these only weighs 1.2Kg and has a cold boot time of just under 10 seconds. No price or availability for these products yet.

No doubt, those who make it through the lines to see Paul Otellini perform his keynoting will hear plenty more when he fills the Venetian with throngs of CES attendees.

Intel Ultrabooks will not do well for some time

Analysts are claiming that Ultrabooks will fail to meet the forty-percent market share that Intel wants by the end of the year.

NPD DisplaySearch thinks that it is unlikely that Ultrabooks will make a significant impact because they are too expensive.

According to Channel News,   the analyst company added that Ultrabooks would also suffer from supply limitations affecting the production of ultra-thin displays.

The analysts also noted that there seemed to be inconsistent pricing in some parts of the world with Australia being sold Toshiba, Acer and Asus Ultrabooks at a price that were 90 percent more expensive than those being sold in the United States.

NPD Analysts said that ultrabooks could succeed, but it would take a lot longer before they made an impact.

Ultrabooks will become demanded by consumers when things like sleek design and instant-on and long battery life become one of their main focuses. Those who are interested in such matters will be put off by the price.

It said that Intel would be lucky to get ten percent of the overall PC market and will not hit 40 percent share until at least 2015. 

Weak demand, strong yen forces Toshiba to slash chip output

Toshiba is shutting down chipmaking facilities in Japan and cut output elsewhere as demand slumps.

The chip plants for the chop are for discrete chips. Three of the semiconductor factories are due to be slashed at the start of April 2012.

Toshiba is on the back foot, like many other Japanese companies, because of the strength in the yen – so it needs to cut costs, reports Reuters. Toshiba will cut discrete chip output until January, it says. 

You’d think a strong yen would have a country leaping for joy, but actually it cuts the value of overseas money sent back to its shores. 

An analyst told Reuters that Toshiba’s decision isn’t exactly a surprise. The JP Morgan analyst said it’s down to weak demand, as well as domestic customers like electronics manufacturers also cutting their outputs. 

Meanwhile, Bloomberg claims Toshiba will also shuffle about 1,700 workers at the end of September 2012. 1,200 of them will go to group companies and the remaining 500 will be told to advance their careers elsewhere, as one factory halves its output of 150mm wafers. 

HP is the top spender in Taiwan

Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs has revealed that the top spender for the country’s products is inkjet churn-house Hewlett Packard.

The ministry did not say exactly how much HP had been spending, but the Taipei Times says HP’s spending rose 10 percent from the $25 billion it splashed out last year. 

HP plans to spend roughly $30 billion each year in Taiwan over the next two years. It plans to go on a hiring spree, too, considering adding 100 employees to its roster in the region. 

Other big spenders in the country include Toshiba of Japan, which came second in the MoE’s top of the pops by handing out just over $10 billion to Taiwanese companies. It was followed by tinbox maker Dell, then Sony and Lenovo. They all spent roughly $7.5 billion on Taiwanese products.

A company which dropped out of the top five list was Samsung. Whether Sockgate was a defining factor in that isn’t clear.

The ministry also gave a nod and a pat on the back to technology bigwigs like Nvidia and Qualcomm. Taiwan was happy for them to be investing in local semiconductor companies.

According to the country, the total purchases of Taiwanese products reached a stonking $90.2 billion for 2011, which is 5.7 percent growth from the year before. Ten years on, the figure is just about double the $43 billion in 2001.

Seagate predicts 12 month hard drive famine

The floods in Thailand continue to wreak havoc in the component supply chain and now the CEO of Seagate is predicting there will be a shortage right up to the end of 2012.

According to Bloomberg, which interviewed CEO Stephen Luczo, predictions that everything will be back to normal by summer next year are highly unlikely.  Although Seagate factories are not submerged by floods, many of its 130 component suppliers are, and that is leading to a shortfall in production.

And as sure as love and marriage go together like a horse and a duck, a shortage means prices will rise.  It’s not just the price of hard drives that are rising – Seagate’s share price is rising too.

Bloomberg says drive prices have already risen by 20 percent and Western Digital and Toshiba are in trouble too.  It puts Luczo and his company in a good position because he can place his customers on allocation and put the prices up.

This is the bitter bit, because PC vendors have driven down the price of hard drives to yield much smaller margins than they used to – but now the PC vendors have to pay the piper that’s playing the component tune.  You can find more at Bloomberg, here.

Thai floods disrupt HDD industry

HDD suppliers believe there’s weak demand and so have lowered inventory levels to 10-15 days. But there’s something else they have to worry about now.

A real problem is flooding in Thailand, the largest base for HDD manufacturing in the world and where much of an HDD’s components are built too.

Even though demand is low, the supply might not be there anyway if disruptions continue in Thailand.

Major players like Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi GST and Toshiba have factories set up in Thailand.

According to Digitimes sources in Taiwan, the chain has felt the effects so seriously that supply won’t be able to go back to normal in the next six weeks. 

Meanwhile, some industry watchers believe that the tragedy in Japan actually stabilised the HDD market  , but also that shipments are stagnant in the third quarter of this year. 

A TweakTown Week in Review: Top Picks

Hello TechEye viewers, this is TweakTown’s content editor reporting with our second weekly update on all the technological happenings over at TweakTown. This past week has seen a wave of diversity that will peek interest for all comers. 

First up, another Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 240GB SSD from OWC entered our labs last week, but this isn’t to be mistaken for the first model with the same name that OWC released about a year prior. The latest revision uses the SF-2282 controller with 32nm Toshiba Toggle flash and as you will see in our full review, it takes significant leaps and bounds ahead to become one of the quickest SSDs to have passed through the TT labs to date.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding GIGABYTE’s new Z68 weapon that nestles its way neatly into the G1.Killer arsenal. We got our hands on the G1.Sniper2 for a full going over and were quick to see why it’s been received by the PC enthusiast and gamer communities so well.

With dedicated Creative X-Fi audio, Killer E2100 networking and a kaboodle of other gamer and overclocker friendly features on the dominating Z68/LGA1155 platform, for gamers in particular, finding something not to like about the board will be the most difficult, aside from perhaps the understandbly higher price tag compared to some of its competitors offerings.

If you’re sold on the Sniper2 and now setting your target on a suitable kit of RAM, we looked at one of Corsair’s latest Dominator GT series dual channel memory kits earlier this week; an 8GB, 2133MHz kit which particularly stands out due to the lower required 1.5v spec versus other 2133MHz kits that more commonly need 1.6v or above.

With timings of 9-11-9-27, an upperscale default speed of 2133MHz and the beefier 8GB capacity versus your more typical 4GB, there are little to no tradeoffs from the lowly 1.5v requirement to get these modules humming along and as expected, our testing revealed there’s a bit of tinkering room for some timings and speed adjustments to squeeze even more out of the modules.

Our storage Chris guru was grinning like a cheshire cat upon receiving a certain package from OCZ recently, knowing that what was lurking inside was one of the fastest SSD solutions known to man, the mighty RevoDrive 3 X2 PCI-E SSD in 480GB capacity form.

With well over 1500MB/sec read and 1350MB/sec write speeds on tap in ideal situations (confirmed by our ATTO testing), despite the choice of asynchronous versus synchronous flash used, the RevoDrive 3 X2 certainly won’t let you down in the performance ranks, but being a top-tier, workstation oriented product, the price probably will at well over $1600 USD. But if the large 480GB capacity is way overkill, you can always opt for the entry level 120GB model that brings pricing back down to Earth at a respectable $399.99 over at NewEgg at the time of writing.

If you’re a big fan of Rugby, you’d be excited about the 2011 World Cup kicking into action come September 9, beginning with New Zealand v Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. In coincidence, Developer HB Studios has just launched a new rugby gaming title for the PS3 and Xbox 360, Rugby World Cup 2011 – The Game, the first rugby title out for quite some time, since 2007 actually.

HB Studios were the team that built the EA rugby games over the years, but with EA not releasing a rugby game for the World Cup, it was up to a lesser known publisher, 505 Games to run with it. However, those who played HB Studios’ previous games and loved the way they played will be happy to know that the formula is pretty much the same this time around. You can read our full review on the game here folks.

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you already know that the East Coast of the US was ravaged by a hurricane. In the hurricane’s wake thousands of homes were flooded, entire cities underwater and billions of family pictures, digital and print are now destroyed. For the last couple of years we’ve been urging readers to plan ahead, prepare for the worst and to get your data secure.

When it comes to natural disaster protection, no one does it better than ioSafe. ioSafe has been selling the Solo, a well-built external hard drive enclosure that is able to resist fire, water and pressure for years now. The newest version, the SoloPRO takes the original Solo design and enhances it with faster interfaces to your PC or MAC. Several months ago we looked at the USB 2.0 / eSATA model, but this week we looked at the USB 3.0 model.

And that about wraps up the major happenings from our neck of the woods for this past week. Until next, adios folks!