This upcoming week will be big for both Apple and SanDisk. On Wednesday Apple will host a media event where the headline act is expected to be Apple’s much-anticipated tablet.
On Thursday SanDisk will announce Q4 earnings.
Whether there is any connection is anyone’s guess.
Last Thursday, Morgan Stanley (MS) released their thoughts on SanDisk. The report is titled:
“Preview: Raising Estimates on Stable Pricing.”
While the title may sound bullish, MS isn’t. They maintain their equal-weight stock rating.
One sentence caught my eye though:
“While the stock [SNDK] could rally some more on Apple’s tablet announcement next week as recent checks suggest SNDK is now selling to Apple, we wait for visibility into demand post Chinese New Year in order to turn more constructive on the stock.”
This is the first I’ve read of Apple named as a SNDK customer, and between the lines the implication seems to be that SNDK has a piece of Apple’s tablet.
Personally, I’m not particularly surprised, if this is how things play out. Hints have been around for a while. Starting in 2009, SanDisk’s tone when talking about Apple has softened remarkably. Gone are SanDisk’s “iDon’t” ads of 2006.
Eli’s much more sympathetic refrain has been, “You can’t out-iPod the iPod.”
2006 CES was where SanDisk announced, with great fanfare, its intention of becoming a consumer electronics powerhouse.
How quickly times change.
At CES 2010, SanDisk had a booth but passed on official presentations. It appears that SanDisk has decided it wiser to supply the consumer powerhouses than compete head-to-head.
Probably a wise decision.
That said, there was one interesting SanDisk PR which came out of this year’s CES: SanDisk’s pSSD was selected by LG for its flagship ultra-thin Mobile PC.
This PR is interesting because it is the third such PR announcing a pSSD win. The other two are Sony’s ultra-thin Vaio X laptop and Asus’ rotating-touchscreen computer.
This could be the tip of the iceberg.
While SanDisk has had its problems with its mainstream laptop/ PC SSDs, curiously, it appears to be very strong in the rapidly evolving new product segment between smartphones and laptops.
All three SanDisk pSSD wins are for offerings in this segment. All are extremely thin and light, with 9”- 11”± screens. All boast low power consumption. All are pricey.
Let’s see- new product category between smartphones and laptops, extremely thin and light, with 9”- 11”± screen, low power consumption, and last but not least- pricey.
Sounds kind-of like a rumor wrap-up for Apple’s tablet.
With only days to go before the official unveiling, its pretty clear that Apple’s tablet will fall somewhere between the iPhone and a laptop. Likely it will be extremely thin and light with the required strength coming from Apple’s expertise in unibody construction.
The screen will likely be a 10- to 11-inch touchscreen. The processor could very well come from Apple’s PA Semi team. It is expected to have roughly the processing power of Intel’s Atom processors optimized for the netbook market, but be far more efficient when it comes to power requirements.
The tablet is expected to cost roughly $1000. The concept rendering below is said to closely resemble the actual Apple tablet.
For all the tablet rumors, precious little has been written about storage- either onboard or removable. The first question: SSD or HDD? Probably a flip of the coin.
That said, I think there is a reasonable chance that the new Apple Tablet will include a low capacity SSD, for all the same reasons that Sony, Asus and LG did in their premium subnotebook offerings.
An SSD is lighter and smaller, more rugged and reliable, has better performance and is more power efficient than a HDD.
If this is how things go, I suspect SanDisk will get a big piece of the action with their pSSD. Eli has been repeating for a while now how well SanDisk has been doing with pSSD. It seems to be a good, proven product at the right price.
It’s unlikely that SanDisk would get an exclusive, though. Apple will want multiple suppliers. Also an official announcement is unlikely, as that doesn’t seem to be the Apple way. We might get hints though, in the SNDK cc.
If SanDisk is inside the new Apple tablet it would be a huge deal. Not only for the specific business, but also for the relationship with Apple.
Apple is a leader and a trend setter. Other company’s premium offerings, in this emerging segment, will need to keep pace.
Another angle to watch is whether the Apple’s tablet includes an SD card slot. Probably better than even odds it will. Since June of 2009, Apple’s new MacBook Pro 13″ and 15″ models have included SD card slots.
Apple went with SD cards, because SD technology is the de-facto industry standard for solid state removable storage- in consumer electronics. An SD card makes perfect sense for a tablet, certainly far more sense than a DVD drive.
The combination of a low capacity SSD coupled with a card slot seems particularly compelling- enabling a relatively affordable, high-performance solution. Just what is needed until NAND pricing comes down.
The card would allow significant increased storage capacity thereby allowing a lower capacity, and more affordable, SSD. Given NANDs current strong pricing such a strategy makes a lot of sense.
I suppose it is possible that Apple might just go with NAND chips (memory modules) in its tablet instead of an SSD- as they have with the iPhone and iPod. A modular SSD, though, would seem to make a lot more sense for various reasons- most notably performance.
In any case, I suspect SanDisk is already providing Apple with chips (memory modules) along with Toshiba, for an upcoming iPhone and iPod refresh. Toshiba supposedly has the highest density embedded flash memory module in the industry. With 32nm SNDK/Toshiba NAND, 64GB modules can be produced thanks to advanced chip thinning, layering and wire bonding technologies.
Currently both the iPhone maxes out at 32GB. Next stop will be 64GB.
And yes, SanDisk’s Q4 will likely be another blow-out and SanDisk’s Q1 guidance won’t disappoint. Whether anyone will care is another matter.