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Must-know overview of Micron Technology: A DRAMatic growth story

Smita Nair

Must-know overview of Micron Technology: A DRAMatic growth story (Part 1 of 8)

Micron Technology

Micron Technology (MU) and its subsidiaries provide advanced memory and semiconductor solutions. The company offers a broad portfolio of silicon-to-semiconductor solutions, starting with foundational DRAM, NAND, and NOR Flash memory, and extending to SSDs, modules, MCPs, HMCs, and other semiconductor systems. Market Realist recently reported on Micron’s fiscal second quarter results and noted that markets have awarded the company’s financial improvements with stock price growth. Micron’s stock has surged on bullish earnings prospects, and it’s up more than 200% since the beginning of 2013, partly propelled by the acquisition of Elpida last year.

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The company’s transition from making traditional PC-based memory products to manufacturing DRAM and NAND products for smartphones, tablets, and servers reflects the general shift in the technology marketplace. End markets used to differ for DRAM and NAND products, as NAND Flash was used in consumer products while DRAM was used in the computing space. However, the lines have blurred with the emergence of SSD (solid-state drives) and USBs that have fueled demand for both NAND and DRAM products from computing OEMs, benefiting memory vendors such as Micron. IHS said the global semiconductor market regained its footing in 2013 following a 2.5% decline in 2012 due to the strong performance of the memory sector. The research said, “Solid pricing and expanding demand for DRAM and NAND in smartphones and tablets have caused revenue for these memory devices to surge.”

Micron Technology Inc. was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Micron’s memory products enable computing, graphics, enterprise storage, networking, mobile, and embedded and automotive applications.

Micron, which is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of DRAM of the top three manufacturers, offers high-density, low-cost-per-bit random access memory devices with high-speed data storage and retrieval. The company’s embedded NAND Flash-based storage devices are used in mobile phones, solid-state drives (or SSDs), tablets, computers, industrial and automotive applications, MP3 and MP4 players, and other personal and consumer applications. Micron’s NOR Flash products are ideal for storing program code in wireless and embedded applications, as they offer high densities, XiP performance, architectural flexibility, and proven reliability in rigorous industrial settings. Micron’s NOR Flash products are designed to meet the needs of consumer electronics, industrial, automotive, wired and wireless communications, and computing applications. Micron’s semiconductor memory products are offered under the Micron, Lexar, Crucial, SpecTek, and Elpida brand names and other private labels.

Research firm TrendForce’s mobile DRAM revenue ranking for the fourth quarter of 2013 said South Korean manufacturers Samsung (SSNLF) and SK Hynix’s (HSXCF) combined market share was 74.8%, while Micron came in third, with 23% of the market—only 3% behind SK Hynix. In terms of the NAND flash brand supplier revenue ranking for the fourth quarter of 2013, Micron was third, behind Samsung and the Sandisk (SNDK)–Toshiba (TOSBF) joint venture, according to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce. In solid state drives that useNAND, Micron sees competition from SanDisk (SNDK) and new entrants Western Digital (WDC) and Seagate Technology (STX).

In the NOR flash market, Micron competes with Spansion Inc. (CODE), the Taiwan-based Macronix International (MXICY), Winbond Electronics, and GigaDevice. According to IHS Suppli, NOR shipments fell 10% last year, to 606 million units, with revenue down 15% to approximately $3.0 billion. The steady decline of the NOR flash market began in 2007, and at its peak, the market exceeded $9 billion a year and last hit $8 billion back in 2006—a far cry from its current numbers, research said.

Analyst Michael Yang noted, “NOR’s once-broad portfolio of applications in low-end mobile handsets and desktop PCs has mostly matured, and its next killer market has yet to manifest.” Recent news reports said Micron was planning job cuts at its Italian subsidiary that was part of the NOR flash maker Numonyx acquisition in 2010.

Micron has four reportable segments:

  1. DRAM Solutions Group (DSG): This segment includes dynamic random access memory or DRAM products sold to the PC, consumer electronics, networking, and server markets.
  2. NAND Solutions Group (NSG): This segment includes high-volume NAND Flash products sold into data storage, personal music players, and the high-density computing markets, as well as NAND Flash products sold to Intel Corporation (INTC) through its IM Flash Technologies joint venture.
  3. Wireless Solutions Group (WSG): This segment includes DRAM, NAND Flash, and NOR Flash products, including multi-chip packages sold to the mobile device market.
  4. Embedded Solutions Group (ESG): This segment includes DRAM, NAND Flash, and NOR Flash products sold into automotive and industrial applications, as well as NOR and NAND Flash sold to consumer electronics, networking, PC, and server markets.

Continue to Part 2

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