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The Golden Tablet: SanDisk Cashes in on Apple’s Use of Flash Memory

Flash MemoryHawksM24 June 2010

After years of waiting, the market has gotten its tablet and the people are more than a little excited, not to mention SanDisk – the company Apple chose to make the flash memory used for its latest innovation.

Flash memory, already used in digital cameras, mobile phones, and some laptop computers, takes up less space and speeds up operation – two key drawing points for Apple when creating the iPad. But SanDisk wouldn’t be in this position today if it weren’t for the near soothsayer abilities of SanDisk founder, Eli Harari. Harari established relationships with mobile handset makers so early in the game that now almost half of the company’s revenue comes from the mobile handset market.

Being asked to make anything for an Apple product would be a big deal for any company, but with statistics being thrown around like “an iPad is now sold every three seconds” it looks like SanDisk has hit the jackpot. Morgan Stanley predicts that iPad sales will top 10 million by the end of this year – an increase from its previous projection of 6 million. And this could only be the beginning for SanDisk.

Like the iPhone for the smartphone market, the iPad is setting the bar for tablet computers. HP is set to release its ­­­TouchSmart 600 tablet PC and Sony, which already uses SanDisk flash memory in its netbook machines, and Asustek Computer will be following suit.

“If Apple does well with their products, then the whole mobile market does well,” says semiconductor analyst Dinesh Moorjani of Broadpoint AmTech, which could only mean more business for SanDisk.

Right now, solid-state drives, which use flash memory, are being positioned to replace the traditional rotating hard drives in laptop computers. Cost is the limiting factor. An SSD drive is currently priced at about $1.90 per gigabyte of flash, but Moorjani sees the pricing sweet-spot falling at about the $1 range. With prices looking to drop about 50 cents a year, he suggests that mass adoption may only be about two years away.

That’s not very long to wait for SanDisk to rein king.

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