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Samsung continues to dominate global NAND flash memory market

As you may know, the NAND flash memory chip was originally introduced by none other than Toshiba, but since its birth, the industry’s landscape has transformed dramatically: namely, Samsung has emerged as the market leader, and according to the latest data, it looks as though that trend is going to continue for the time being.

According to DRAMeXchange, Samsung reached a whopping $14.151 billion in NAND flash memory sales alone last year. That’s a significant lead since Toshiba – coming in second place – saw a total of $7.898 billion. Overall, the South Korean electronics giant saw its sales increase by 34 percent compared to the year before whereas Toshiba saw a decent 18.4 percent increase.

Now this is a trend that we’ve been seeing over a year now: the gap started to really appear towards the end of 2015, especially during Q4 when Toshiba’s total sales decreased, and Samsung sold almost double the amount of that Toshiba did. But what’s particularly impressive with last year’s figures is that the gap between these two companies had never exceeded $6 billion. Samsung has come a long way since 2013 when it first started the mass production of 3D NAND flash memories – a technology that Toshiba has been struggling with.

The general consensus amongst market analysts is that Samsung will continue to dominate global NAND flash memory sales, but Toshiba may have a plan of its own. Since early this year, rumors started circulating regarding Toshiba’s plan to sell a minority stake in its chip business in order to alleviate its financial problems. Some predict that Western Digital Corp might be a potential buyer, and these two companies’ combined shares could exceed that of Samsung. Of course, there are antitrust laws, and the process of the buyout – if Western Digital Corp is even interested – would take a very long time, but either way, Toshiba’s sale of its chip business is expected to be completed by early 2018. Though Samsung’s growth seems unstoppable, with Toshiba’s chip business soon to be spun off, the industry may see yet another shift soon.

source: – Android Authority
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Alibaba Website Designated Again as ‘Notorious Market’

Alibaba Group’s Taobao online shopping site was named once again to the United States Trade Representative’s “Notorious Markets List,” calling into question the headway the Alibaba website has made in combating counterfeit goods.

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) warned Alibaba a year ago that it needed to improve its anti-counterfeiting efforts or else be added to the black market list. The Alibaba website has undertaken steps to facilitate counterfeit removals, and said this year it more than doubled the number of product listings it removed compared to a year ago. Still, the USTR in its reported stated that “while recent steps set positive expectations for the future, current levels of reported counterfeiting and piracy are unacceptably high.” For example, the USTR said that one large motor vehicle manufacturer reported that at least 95% of items on Alibaba platforms bearing the company’s brand name were counterfeit.

In a statement, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans cited the more the 100,000 brands that operate in Alibaba marketplaces as one reason that Taobao does not belong on the list. “Unfortunately, the USTR’s decision leads us to question whether the USTR acted based on the actual facts or was influenced by the current political climate,” Evans said.

The “Notorious Market” designation only applies to Taobao (which has been compared to U.S. sites like Amazon and eBay), and not Alibaba.com, the B-to-B sourcing platform offered by Alibaba Group. Taobao was previously on the Notorious Markets list from 2008-2012, while Alibaba.com was removed from the list in 2011.

In recent years, the Alibaba website has restructured its counterfeit reporting policies to allow products to be removed more quickly. In October the company told the USTR that over a 12-month span ending in August, 380 million product listings were removed and about 180,000 Taobao stores were closed. In 2014, counterfeit-tracker Net Names told the Wall Street Journal that of the brands it works with, 20%-80% of their items on Taobao are counterfeit.

The recent Notorious Markets designation could damage Alibaba’s continued efforts to make inroads into the U.S. However, the company continues to accrue impressive growth, including a 55% increase in revenue for its fiscal second quarter ending in September and increases from 3.61 yuan per share to 5.26 per share.

On Counselor’s recent 2016 Power 50 list, Alibaba website founder Jack Ma and CEO Daniel Zhang ranked 28th, but dropped 11 spots compared to the previous year’s list.  All the more reason to look at local distributors with a solid track record of delivering quality products from verified sources.

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NAND flash memory prices at 2-year high

TOKYO — Prices for NAND flash memory used in smartphones and memory cards continue to climb, recently rising above $3 per chip for the first time in two years.

Bellwether 64-gigabit multi-level cell (MLC) chips are currently selling for around $3.30 apiece, 6% more than in September. The price last topped the $3 benchmark when it reached $3.10 in November 2014. The price of 128-gigabit memory is up 1% from September to around $4.10.

Memory prices typically fall with the passage of time accompanying advances in manufacturing technology. It is extremely unusual for prices to climb as far as the same level as two years earlier.

Driving the increase is a surge in demand. One major factor is the decision by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics to halt sales of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, which was plagued by exploding batteries.

NAND flash memory was already headed toward a shortage, since it is used to increase memory capacity as smartphone functionality expands. Now, Samsung’s rivals are seizing the offensive, taking the South Korean company’s woes as an opportunity to expand market share. In particular, the Chinese manufacturers behind the Oppo and Vivo brands are competing to secure NAND flash memory.

In the U.S., companies engaged in finance and e-commerce are increasing investment in servers. This has contributed to the rise in NAND prices by driving up demand for solid-state memory, a type of memory that incorporates NAND and helps speed data throughput while reducing operating costs.

(Nikkei)

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NAND Flash Prices to Increase Sharply in Q4 due to Severe Supply Shortages

nand flash wafer

According to a recent report from market intelligence firm TrendForce, supply shortages and surging demand from the 3Q2016 will continue into 4Q2016 increasing prices of NAND Flash. This will cause price increases of eMMC, eMCP and SSDs extending through the 4th quarter.

The main driver of increasing prices is due to smartphone demand. Smartphone demand has started to boom in the 2H2016 with sales of the iPhone 7 on the upswing causing major constrains on supply. Apple doubled capacities on each of the iPhone 7 models representing a substantial increase in NAND Flash consumption. Similarly, other brands such as Huawei, OPPO and Vivo are ramping up production and increasing storage capacities of their popular mid-range and high-end smartphones in preparation for the holiday season.

Thanks to decreasing prices, SSD demand has also increased substantially as as well. Notebook adoption rates of SSDs are expected to reach 33% for the first time and combined with a projected 8% increase in notebook sales will further constrain supply. Furthermore, increasing shipments of enterprise SSDs due to strong demand from server manufacturers and datacenters based in the US and China will further constrain supply as well.

While all these factors are continuing to constrain supply, NAND Flash suppliers are having issues meeting the demand. All major NAND Flash makers with the exception of Samsung are currently transitioning to 3D NAND Flash however, poor yields and production efficiency is substantially lowering global NAND Flash output. Furthermore, the transition to 3D NAND is affecting 2D Planar NAND production which is still the primary type of NAND for eMMC and eMCP products used in smartphones, memory cards, and flash drives.

Source: DRAMeXchange (TrendForce)

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Hit the road, headphone jack. USB Ports want your job

A trade group is done creating a technology to let ordinary USB ports take over from the 3.5mm audio jacks on laptops and PCs.

 

Traditional audio jacks on your phone or laptop are one step closer to the grave with the completion of technology that will let USB ports take over the job.

The USB Implementers Forum announced Tuesday (PDF) it’s done creating an audio technology that will let the widely used USB port handle headsets and microphones.

USB audio existed before, but the new version 3.0 of the standard ensures USB-connected headphones won’t significantly hurt phone battery life and codifies details like how a pause button on your earbuds will work, Intel architect Brad Saunders said in an August interview. It will also make it cheaper to include premium features like noise cancellation, he said.

Apple has been roundly criticized for dropping the 3.5mm audio jack, a decades-old but still useful technology, from the new iPhone 7. Instead, it uses the phone’s proprietary Lightning port and supplies an adapter to plug in older devices.

But Apple defended the move as courageous and liberating, and there are signs others will make the same decision to move toward newer digital technology. The new USB audio technology makes that move easier for device manufacturers. You may not be happy about it, but it may be time to make your peace.

“The 3.5mm audio jack is increasingly unpopular, as designers don’t want to deal with old, analog technology,” said IHS analyst Brian O’Rourke.

USB audio and the new USB Type-C connector are well-suited to each other. The same USB-C ports work on PCs, tablets and phones, which would make USB headphones or earbuds more versatile. And USB-C is increasingly versatile, able to handle new device charging duties and video on top of USB’s traditional job of transferring data.

The USB Implementers Forum certainly wants to see its technology exterminate the 3.5mm audio jack.

“USB audio over USB Type-C allows [manufacturers] to remove the 3.5mm analog audio jack, shaving up to a millimeter off product designs and reducing the number of connectors on a device,” the organization said in a statement. “Fewer connectors will open the door for innovation in countless ways and make it easier to design waterproof or water-resistant devices.”

The new USB-C technology also features an “alt mode” that lets it act like other types of ports, including DisplayPort and HDMI video. However, the USB Implementers forum is also working on a separate USB video technology for basic video tasks like connecting external monitors.

 

by  – CNET

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Kingston buys encrypted flash drive maker IronKey

kingston buys ironkey

Kingston Technology announced late Monday that it has acquired the USB technology and assets of IronKey from Imation Corp.

Imation, which purchased the then privately-held IronKey in 2011, did not disclose the financial details of the sale to Kingston.

IronKey is perhaps best known for its highly secure USB flash drives, which use 256-bit AES encryption algorithm to secure data and a stainless steel case with no seams so it cannot be pried open.

The secure storage devices are validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to meet the stringent Level 3 criteria of FIPS 140-2. Combined with the cloud-based IronKey Enterprise Management Service, data security can be managed and audited from anywhere in the world.

IronKey’s thumb drives carry with them a hefty price as well. For example, a 32GB thumb drive can retail for as much as $599. However, you can also find them on online sites for around $280.

Kingston, which has had an encrypted portable drive line since it launched its DataTraveler product more than 10 years ago, said IronKey is one of the “leading alternative brands in encrypted USB flash” drives.

“The acquisition provides customers with a more comprehensive portfolio of products and services, and demonstrates Kingston’s commitment as the global leader in trusted encrypted solutions for mobile data,” Kingston said in a statement.

Kingston envisions no immediate changes that would affect the channel partners now supporting IronKey products.

“IronKey customers with any questions or concerns are asked to contact their current distribution or reseller partners, or email [email protected],” the company said.

In addition to Kingston’s acquisition, encryption services leader DataLocker Inc. has purchased the IronKey Enterprise Management Services (EMS), a software platform that provides centralized management to encrypted USB drives for enterprises. DataLocker previously acquired the SafeConsole management system from BlockMaster, which Kingston uses on its current management-ready encrypted USB Flash drives.

“The addition and integration of the IronKey brand with our own award-winning line of DataTraveler encrypted USB drives provides a dynamic range of encrypted solutions for customers of all levels who want to protect mobile data,” Valentina Vitolo, Kingston’s flash business manager, said in a statement. “Having our great partner DataLocker manage both the EMS and SafeConsole platforms is a win for all of our combined customers. We look forward to extending our relationship with DataLocker.”

Source: Computerworld online

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Staples Acquires Accolade Promotion Group

Staples Acquires Accolade Promotion Group

As first reported in a Breaking News Alert yesterday, two Top 40 distributors are joining forces. Staples Inc., the parent company of Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601), has agreed to acquire Canada-based Accolade Promotion Group (APG, asi/102905). Financial terms and conditions of the transaction were not disclosed, and a company spokesperson told Counselor they couldn’t yet say when the deal would officially close.

“The acquisition will further Staples’ ability to bring customers a strong brand partner with a broader offering in Canada,” said Steve Bussberg, senior vice president of Staples Advantage, which oversees the Staples Promotional Products business. “APG’s vast experience serving customers in the financial and oil & gas industries will complement our strengths in the automotive, manufacturing and consumer goods industries.”

APG had been a division of retailer Golf Town (which is a subsidiary of Austin, TX-based Golfsmith International), but it now will become part of the Staples organization. Dan Craig, the head of APG, will become managing director of Staples Promotional Products Canada. Pam Westman, the current managing director of Staples Promotional Products in Canada will lead the integration of the acquisition and spearhead global expansion for Staples Promotional Products.

“We are looking forward to joining forces with Staples to more effectively deliver a great customer experience,” said Craig, who is a member of Counselor’s Power 50. “The acquisition will allow us to expand our global reach and extend the benefit of significant investments in technology, compliance and supply chain.”

Staples Promotional Products holds the number-one spot on Counselor’s Top 40 and is the largest distributor of ad specialty items in North America. APG ranks 21st on the Top 40, and recently reported to Counselor that it had 2014 North American ad specialty revenues of $75.7 million, a 2% increase over the previous year. While Staples doesn’t disclose the revenues of specific divisions, Counselor estimates that the combined promotional products revenue of Staples and APG will surpass $500 million annually.

Source ASI

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USB 3.1 set to reach desktops

The emerging USB 3.1 standard is set to reach desktops as hardware companies release motherboards with ports that can transfer data two times faster than the previous USB technology.

MSI on Wednesday announced a 970A SLI Krait motherboard that will support the AMD processors and the USB 3.1 protocol. Motherboards with USB 3.1 ports have also been released by Gigabyte, ASRock and Asus, but those boards support Intel chips.

USB 3.1 can shuffle data between a host device and peripheral at 10Gbps (bits per second), which is two times faster than USB 3.0. USB 3.1 is also generating excitement for the reversible Type-C cable, which is the same on both ends so users don’t have to worry about plug orientation.

The motherboards with USB 3.1 technology are targeted at high-end desktops. Some enthusiasts like gamers seek the latest and greatest technologies and build desktops with motherboards sold by MSI, Asus and Gigabyte. Many of the new desktop motherboards announced have the Type-C port interface, which is also in recently announced laptops from Apple and Google.

New technologies like USB 3.1 usually first appear in high-end laptops and desktops, then make their way down to low-priced PCs, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst of Mercury Research.

PC makers are expected to start putting USB 3.1 ports in more laptops and desktops starting later this year.

The need for faster access to external storage could make the motherboards with USB 3.1 attractive to enthusiasts, McCarron said.

Some storage peripherals with Type-C connectors are becoming available, but can’t reach full USB 3.1 speeds yet. However, the data transfer speeds will continue to improve as controllers are refined.

Enthusiasts won’t buy new motherboards just for USB 3.1, but they’ll factor in other reasons like processor upgrades, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

The new MSI 970A SLI Krait motherboard supports the latest AMD CPU and multiple graphics processors. The USB 3.1 ports will just be icing on the cake, Brookwood said.

But buyers will have to watch the type of USB 3.1 ports they are getting in the new motherboards. The new MSI motherboard has larger USB 3.1 Type-A ports, which are similar in size to the current USB 3.0 ports in PCs. The larger connectors will ensure existing USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 peripherals plug into desktops, but won’t deliver the blazing fast speeds of USB 3.1.

McCarron said that most of the peripherals and PCs will come with the Type-C connectors. Cables will become available so PCs with USB 3.1 Type-A connectors can connect to peripherals with Type-C connectors.

The price for MSI’s 970A SLI Krait motherboard wasn’t immediately available.

Source: PC Mag

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Next-gen USB connector will be smaller & reversible

In order to squeeze the ultra-fast 10Gbps USB 3.1 standard into the next gen of slim devices, the USB 3.0 Promoter group has just announced the USB Type C connector. It’ll be similar in size to existing USB 2.0 Micro-B connectors, while bringing USB 3.1 speeds and other distinct advantages over current cables. For starters, the new design will be reversible like Apple’s Lightning ports, meaning at long last you won’t have to worry about which end goes up. In addition, Type-C will bring scalable power charging and the ability to support future USB standards. The downside is that it won’t be compatible with existing connectors, but if we don’t have to do the flippy dance to insert a phone cable anymore, we’ll take that trade-off in a New York minute.

Source: Engadget