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Analyst: Top mobile global vendors in 2013

Posted: 18 Jun 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Gartner  eMMC  eMCP  Samsung  Toshiba 

Gartner has recently released a report titled "Market Share Analysis: eMMC and eMCP Vendors by Revenue, Worldwide, 2013." According to the report, the top ranked vendor for eMMC and eMCP market was Samsung Electronics, with 35.6 per cent of worldwide revenue (around $3.317 billion). The top four vendors, Samsung, Toshiba, SK Hynix and SanDisk, claimed 95.4 per cent revenue share in 2013, up from 90 per cent the previous year. Sales of eMCPs saw higher growth in 2013 than eMMCs. In the report, Gartner attributes this to the increased support of eMCPs by application vendors for low-cost smartphones.

Vendor revenue for eMMCs and eMCPs

Vendor revenue for eMMCs and eMCPs, worldwide, 2012-2013 (millions of dollars).

Officially known as JESD84-B50: Embedded MultiMediaCard (e.MMC), Electrical Standard (5.0), eMMC memory is a JEDEC standard that is presently in version 5.0. As JEDEC defines it, eMMC is an embedded non-volatile memory system that includes flash memory as well as a flash memory controller. The aim of the standard is to simplify the application interface design and free up the host processor from some of the low-level flash memory management tasks. About two years ago, we saw the introduction of embedded multi-chip package (eMCP) memory, which is eMMC memory with an additional DRAM module, developed for low-cost smartphones in an effort to speed time to market.

Position of different mobile memory systems in relation to cost and speed

Position of different mobile memory systems in relation to cost and speed. (Source: Gartner)

Gartner's principal analyst, Brady Wang, compiled the report. He found it surprising that sales of eMCPs saw higher growth in 2013. He also noted that 8LC (also known as 3bits-per-cell) NAND solutions for both eMMC and eMCP will see high adoption in 2014, both in smartphones and tablets. This will address the market demands for high levels of storage space while lowering costs.

eMMC and eMCP memory includes controllers. Some vendors are using their in-house controllers to gain a competitive advantage. Wang said: Some NAND flash vendors, including SNKD, Toshiba and Samsung, still use in-house controllers. Since the geometry of NAND flash moves fast and also the configurations of NAND flash chips between vendors are slightly different, it's important to have a close relationship between controller vendors and chip vendors. That's one advantage of in-house controllers. The other advantage is the cost.

Despite the success stories, challenges remain for mobile memory, and Wang identified speed and performance as the top ones, as mobile memory is challenged to meet the demands of high-performance processors. As a result, he expects universal flash storage (UFS) memory to see its initial adoption in 2H14, but only in very high-end, flagship products to start.

The advantages of UFS memory (as compared to eMMC/eMCP memory) are better performance, higher capacity, better bandwidth, better IOPS, and optimised performance for multithreaded applications, according to Wang. UFS uses a serial interface (eMMC is a parallel interface) and asynchronous I/O (eMMC is synchronous I/O), enabling it to efficiently move data between the host processor and mass storage.

Wang noted that presently the cost and power consumption of UFS is higher than eMMC, so this will constrain its adoption. However, with the introduction of multi-core architectures that require high-performance memory, UFS is well positioned. "Although the power consumption of UFS is higher than eMMC, its energy efficiency is better," said Wang. He expects to see UFS in high-end smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks. eMMC will still be the best choice for mid-to-low cost mobile applications. Wang also pointed to SATA SSDs as competition for UFS in ultrabook applications. Finally, he noted that UFS is not backward compatible with eMMC, which will slow its adoption in applications where eMMC is already used.

- Janine Love
  EE Times

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