This story was written originally for ZDNet Korea on Aug. 27, 2015.
Samsung Electronics’ market share expanded to 45.1 in the first half of this year. The world’s largest memory chip maker by revenue had 39.6 percent market share in the first half 2014, 36.7 for the same period in 2013, 40.2 in 2012 and 40.6 percent in 2011, according to industry sources.
Its market share dominance could very well have come about because Samsung got the jump on close competitors Micron Technology and SK Hynix in the mass-production of 20-nanometer mobile dynamic random access memory (DRAM), an analyst said.
Samsung’s 20-nano DRAM set the company apart on a fundamental technological level. “Samsung is the only company to improve on R&D compared to Micron and Hynix. Samsung’s market share is increasing now because it is the only company which converted to 20-nanometer. We think this company’s competitive advantage is stronger,” said Kim Min-ji semiconductor sector analyst with Shinhan Investments.
When Samsung launched into mass production of the new 20-nano mobile DRAM, it was a first for the industry. The 6-gigabit double data rate-3 (DDR3) modules based on 20-nanometer technology allow mobile DRAM to crank out data transmission speeds of 2,133Mb per second. It also significantly lowering power consumption for better efficiency.
Samsung said the productivity of the product improved 30 percent from the preceding 25-nano pmemory systems. It also focused on the production of 3 GB products composed of four 6-gigabit DRAM mobile chips.
That leaves Micron and Hynix scrambling to play tech catch up to the market leader. Although they both have started production of 20-nano DRAM, their efforts will not have an impact on fourth quarter results, the analyst said.
Samsung has plans to keep ahead of its competitors and has already set ambitious goals of further upgrades in memory systems technology. It hopes to mass produce 10-nano DRAM by the second half of 2016.
But the Shinhan analyst was skeptical the company could meet that ambitious production schedule. “ASML is the only company that makes the EUV photolithography equipment required for 10-nano DRAM and we do not see the company being able to come out with the equipment by then,” Kim said. “We think the EUV equipment will be ready by the second half of 2017.”
ASML is the largest supplier of photolithography systems in the world for semiconductor manufacturers. It makes machines that produce DRAM and other integrated circuits.
Market analysis provider IHS said it estimates the world DRAM market to reach $4.86 billion this year, $660 million increase over $46.20 billion in sales in 2014. But it projects the market to shrink to 4.42 in 2016 and 4.41 in 2017.