SanDisk Corporation, a global technology company, is the inventor and largest supplier of NAND flash storage card products. Flash storage technology allows digital information to be stored in a durable, compact format that retains the data even after the power has been switched off. Our products are used in a variety of large markets, and we distribute our products globally through retail and original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, channels. Our goal is to provide simple, reliable, and affordable storage solutions for consumer use in a wide variety of formats and devices. We were incorporated in Delaware in June 1988 under the name SunDisk Corporation and changed our name to SanDisk Corporation in August 1995. Since 2006, we have been an S&P 500 company.
We design, develop and manufacture data storage solutions in a variety of form factors using our flash memory, proprietary controller and firmware technologies. Our solutions include removable cards, embedded products, universal serial bus, or USB drives, digital media players, wafers and components. Our removable card products are used in a wide range of consumer electronics devices such as mobile phones, digital cameras, gaming devices and laptop computers. Our embedded flash products are used in mobile phones, navigation devices, gaming systems, imaging devices and computing platforms. For computing platforms, we provide high-speed, high-capacity storage solutions known as solid-state drives, or SSDs, that can be used in lieu of hard disk drives in a variety of computing devices.
Most of our products are manufactured by combining NAND flash memory with a controller chip. We purchase the vast majority of our NAND flash memory supply requirements through our significant flash venture relationships with Toshiba Corporation, or Toshiba, which produce and provide us with leading-edge, low-cost memory wafers. From time-to-time, we also purchase flash memory on a foundry basis from NAND flash manufacturers including Toshiba, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., or Samsung, and Hynix Semiconductor, Inc., or Hynix. We generally design our controllers in-house and have them manufactured at third-party foundries.
We operate in the flash memory semiconductor industry, which is comprised of NOR and NAND technologies. These technologies are also referred to as non-volatile memory, which retains data even after the power is switched off. NAND flash memory is the current mainstream technology for mass data storage applications and is traditionally used for embedded and removable data storage. NAND flash memory is characterized by fast write speeds and high capacities. The NAND flash memory industry has been characterized by rapid technology transitions which have reduced the cost per bit by increasing the density of the memory chips on the wafer.
Our strategy is to be an industry-leading supplier of NAND flash storage solutions and to develop large scale markets for NAND-based storage products. We maintain our technology leadership by investing in advanced technologies and NAND flash memory fabrication capacity in order to produce leading-edge, low-cost NAND memory for use in a variety of end-products, including consumer and computing devices. We are a one-stop-shop for our retail and OEM customers, selling in high volumes all major NAND flash storage card formats for our target markets. Our revenues are driven by product sales as well as the licensing of our intellectual property.
We believe the market for flash storage is price elastic, meaning that a decrease in the price per megabyte results in demand for higher capacity and the emergence of new applications for flash storage. We continuously reduce the cost of NAND flash memory, which we believe over time, will enable new markets and expand existing markets and allow us to achieve higher overall revenue.
We create new markets for NAND flash memory through our design and development of NAND applications and products. We are founders or co-founders of most major form factors of flash storage cards in the market today. We pioneered the Secure Digital, or SD™, card, together with a subsidiary of Toshiba and Panasonic Corporation, or Panasonic. The SD card is currently the most popular form factor of flash storage cards used in digital cameras. Subsequent to pioneering the SD card, we worked with mobile network operators and handset manufacturers to develop the miniSD™ card and microSD™ card to satisfy the need for even smaller form factor memory cards. The microSD card has become the leading card format for mobile phones. With Sony Corporation, or Sony, we co-own the Memory Stick PRO™ format and co-developed the SxS memory card specification for high-capacity and high-speed file transfer in flash-based professional video cameras. We also worked with Canon, Inc. to co-found the CompactFlash®, or CF, standard. Through our internal development and technology obtained through acquisitions, we also hold key intellectual property for USB drives and SSDs. We plan to continue to work with a variety of leading companies in various end markets to develop new markets for flash storage products.
Our team has a deep understanding of flash memory technology and we develop and own leading-edge technology and patents for the design, manufacture and operation of flash memory and data storage cards. One of the key technologies that we have patented and successfully commercialized is multi-level cell technology, or MLC, which allows a flash memory cell to be programmed to store two or more bits of data in approximately the same area of silicon that is typically required to store one bit of data. We have an extensive patent portfolio that has been licensed by several leading semiconductor companies and other companies in the flash memory business. Our cumulative license and royalty revenues over the last three fiscal years were approximately $1.37 billion.
We have invested with Toshiba in high volume, state-of-the-art NAND flash manufacturing facilities in Japan. Our commitment takes the form of capital investments and loans to the flash ventures with Toshiba, credit enhancements of these ventures’ leases of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, take-or-pay commitments to purchase up to 50% of the output of these flash ventures with Toshiba at manufacturing cost plus a mark-up and sharing in the cost of SanDisk-Toshiba joint research and development activities related to flash memory. We refer to the flash memory which we purchase from the SanDisk-Toshiba ventures as captive memory. Our strategy is to have a mix of captive and non-captive supply and we have, from time-to-time, supplemented our sourcing of captive flash memory with purchases of non-captive memory, primarily from Hynix, Toshiba and Samsung.
In addition to flash memory, our products include controllers that interface between the flash memory and digital consumer devices. We design our own memory controllers and have them manufactured at wafer foundry companies. Our finished flash memory products, which include the NAND flash memory, controller and outer casing, are assembled at our in-house assembly and test facility in Shanghai, China, and through our network of contract manufacturers.
We sell our products globally to retail and OEM customers. We continue to expand our retail customer base to new geographic regions as well as to outlets such as mobile storefronts, supermarkets and drug stores. We also sell directly and through distributors to OEM customers. These OEM customers either bundle or embed our memory solutions with products such as mobile phones, digital cameras, gaming devices, computers and navigation devices, or resell our memory solutions under their brand into retail channels. This strategy allows us to leverage the market position, geographic footprint and brand strength of our customers to achieve broad market penetration for our products.
Our products are sold in a wide variety of form factors and include the following:
* Removable Cards. Our removable data storage solutions are available in a variety of consumer form factors. For example, our ultra-small microSD removable cards, available in capacities up to 16 gigabytes, are designed for use in mobile phones. Our CompactFlash removable cards, available in capacities up to 64 gigabytes, are well-suited for a range of consumer applications, including digital cameras. Our professional products include the SanDisk Ultra® and SanDisk Extreme® product lines which are designed for additional performance and reliability.
* Embedded Products. Our embedded products include our iNAND™ embedded flash product line, with capacities up to 64 gigabytes, which is designed to respond to the increasing demand for embedded storage for mobile phones and other portable devices. We also offer high-capacity SSDs targeted for the personal computing and server markets in capacities up to 64 gigabytes.
* USB Drives. Our Cruzer® line of USB Flash Drives, or UFDs, are used in the computing and consumer markets, are available in capacities up to 64 gigabytes, are highly-reliable and are designed for high-performance. Our Cruzer products provide the user with the ability to carry files and application software on a portable USB drive. Our Professional and Enterprise line of UFDs are geared towards the corporate user and are specifically designed to support secure and authorized access to corporate information.
* Digital Media Players. Sansa® is our branded line of flash-based digital media players for the digital audio and video player market. Many of our Sansa models offer a removable card slot for storage capacity expansion and easy transportability of content between devices. Features within our Sansa line of products include FM radio, voice recording and support for a variety of audio and video download and subscription services. Sansa media players are available in capacities up to 16 gigabytes. We also sell slotMusic™ and slotRadio™ products that greatly simplify music content availability for consumers.
* Wafers and Components. In addition to finished products listed above, from time-to-time, we also sell raw memory wafers and memory components in packaged format.
Our Primary End Markets
Our products are sold to three primary large end markets:
* Mobile Phones. We provide embedded and removable storage for mobile phones. We are a leading supplier of the microSD and Memory Stick® Micro product lines of removable storage cards used in mobile phones. Multimedia features in mobile phones, such as camera functionality, audio/MP3, games, video and internet access, have been gaining in popularity. In addition, there has been increasing usage of native and downloaded applications in mobile phones. The usage of multimedia features and applications are driving demand for additional NAND flash memory storage in mobile phones.
* Consumer. We provide flash storage products to multiple consumer markets, including imaging, gaming, audio/video and global positioning system, or GPS. Flash storage cards are used as the film for all major brands of digital cameras. Our cards are also used to store video in solid-state digital camcorders and to store digital data in many other devices, such as maps in GPS devices. In addition, portable game devices now include advanced features that require high capacity memory storage cards and we provide SD cards and Memory Stick PRO Duo™ cards that are all specifically packaged for the gaming market. We also sell a line of digital media players with both embedded and removable memory under our Sansa brand with varying combinations of audio and video capabilities. We also sell slotMusic cards and slotRadio which are preloaded with music content and can be used in a wide variety of mobile phones and digital media players. Primary card formats for consumer devices include CF, SD, Memory Stick and xD-Picture Card™.
* Computing. We provide multiple flash storage devices and solutions for the computing market. USB flash drives allow consumers to store computer files, pictures and music on keychain-sized devices and then quickly and easily transfer these files between laptops, notebooks, desktops and other devices that incorporate a USB connection. USB flash drives are easy to use, have replaced floppy disks and other types of external storage media, and are evolving into intelligent storage devices. In addition, we sell modular SSDs, which we call pSSD™, that are flash-based embedded storage devices with capacities of up to 64 gigabytes for the netbook computer market. We are currently developing SSDs for the mainstream notebook and desktop computer markets and we believe that SSDs will become a major application for NAND flash memory over the next several years as they are increasingly likely to replace hard disk drives in a variety of computing solutions.
Our Sales Channels
Our products are delivered to end-users through worldwide retail storefronts and also by bundling data storage cards with host products or by embedding our data storage products in host devices sold by our OEM customers.
Our sales are made through the following channels:
* Retail. We sell SanDisk branded products directly or through distributors to consumer electronics stores, office superstores, photo retailers, mobile phone stores, mass merchants, catalog and mail order companies, internet and e-commerce retailers, drug stores, supermarkets and convenience stores.
We support our retail sales channels with both direct sales representatives and independent manufacturers’ representatives. Our sales activities are organized into four regional territories: Americas; Europe, Middle East and Africa, or EMEA; Asia Pacific, or APAC; and Japan.
* OEM. We sell our products through OEM customers who bundle or embed our products in a large variety of digital consumer devices, including mobile phones, digital cameras, personal computers, or PCs, navigation devices and gaming products. We also sell products to OEM customers that offer the products under their own brand name in retail channels. We sell directly to OEMs and through distributors. We support our OEM customers through our direct sales representatives as well as through independent manufacturers’ representatives.
As of the end of fiscal years 2009 and 2008, our backlog was $268 million and $169 million, respectively. Because our customers can change or cancel orders with limited or no penalty and limited advance notice prior to shipment, we do not believe that backlog, as of any particular date, is indicative of future sales.
Because our products are primarily destined for consumers, our revenue is generally highest in our fourth quarter due to the holiday buying season. In addition, our revenue is generally lowest in the first quarter of the fiscal year.
In fiscal years 2009, 2008 and 2007, revenues from our top 10 customers and licensees accounted for approximately 42%, 48% and 46% of our total revenues, respectively. All customers were individually less than 10% of our total revenues in fiscal years 2009 and 2007. In fiscal year 2008, Samsung accounted for 13% of our total revenues through a combination of license and royalty and product revenues. The composition of our major customer base has changed over time, and we expect this pattern to continue as our markets and strategies evolve. Sales to our customers are generally made pursuant to purchase orders rather than long-term contracts.
Since our inception, we have focused our research, development and standardization efforts on developing highly reliable, high-performance, cost-effective flash memory storage products in small form factors to address a variety of emerging markets. We have been actively involved in all aspects of this development, including flash memory process development, module integration, chip design, controller development and system-level integration, to help ensure the creation of fully-integrated, broadly interoperable products that are compatible with both existing and newly developed system platforms. We successfully developed and commercialized 2-bits/cell flash MLC, or X2, which enabled significant cost reduction and growth in NAND flash supply. In addition, we have recently developed and successfully commercialized 3-bits/cell flash MLC, or X3, and 4-bits/cell flash MLC, or X4 technology. In addition, we are investing in the development of three-dimensional, or 3D, memory architecture with multiple read-write capabilities. We have also initiated, defined and developed standards to meet new market needs and to promote wide acceptance of these standards through interoperability and ease-of-use. We believe our core technical competencies are in:
* high-density flash memory process, module integration, device design and reliability;
* securing data on a flash memory device;
* controller design;
* system-level integration;
* compact packaging; and
* low-cost system testing.
To achieve compatibility with various electronic platforms regardless of the host processors or operating systems used, we developed new capabilities in flash memory chip design and created intelligent controllers. We also developed an architecture that can leverage advances in process technology designed for scalable, high-yielding, cost-effective and highly reliable manufacturing processes. We design our products to be compatible with industry-standard interfaces used in standard operating systems for PCs, mobile phones, gaming devices, digital media players and other consumer and industrial products.
Our patented intelligent controller technology, with its advanced defect management system, permits our flash storage card products to achieve a high level of reliability and longevity. Each one of our flash devices contains millions of flash memory cells. A failure in any one of these cells can result in loss of data such as picture files, and this can occur several years into the life of a flash storage card. The controller chip inside our cards is designed to detect such defects and recover data under most standard conditions.
Patents and Licenses
We rely on a combination of patents, trademarks, copyright and trade secret laws, confidentiality procedures and licensing arrangements to protect our intellectual property rights. See Item 1A, “Risk Factors.”
As of the end of fiscal year 2009, we owned, or had rights to, more than 1,400 United States, or U.S., patents and more than 700 foreign patents. We had more than 1,350 patent applications pending in the U.S., and had foreign counterparts pending on many of the applications in multiple jurisdictions. We continually seek additional U.S. and international patents on our technology.
We have various patent licenses with several companies including, among others, Hynix, Intel Corporation, or Intel, Lexar Media, Inc., or Lexar, a subsidiary of Micron Technology, Inc., or Micron, Panasonic, Renesas Technology Corporation, or Renesas, Samsung, Sharp Electronics KK, or Sharp, Sony and Toshiba. From time-to-time, we enter into discussions with other companies regarding potential license agreements for our patents. In the three years ended January 3, 2010, we have generated $1.37 billion in revenue from license agreements.
Trade secrets and other confidential information are also important to our business. We protect our trade secrets through confidentiality and invention assignment agreements.
Our supply chain is an important competitive advantage and is comprised of the following:
* Silicon Sourcing. All of our flash memory card products require silicon chips for the memory and controller components. The majority of our memory is supplied from the flash ventures with Toshiba. This represents captive memory supply and we are obligated to take our share of the output from the flash ventures with Toshiba or pay the fixed costs associated with that capacity. See “Ventures with Toshiba.” From time-to-time, we also purchase non-captive NAND memory supply primarily from Toshiba, Samsung and Hynix. We source our 3D one-time programmable, memory on a foundry basis at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Ltd., or TSMC. We are guaranteed a certain amount of the output from Toshiba, Samsung and Hynix if we provide orders within a required lead time; however we are not obligated to purchase the guaranteed supply unless we provide an order for future purchases. Our controller wafers are currently supplied by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, or SMIC, TSMC, Tower Semiconductor Ltd., or Tower, and United Microelectronics Corporation, or UMC.
* Assembly and Testing. We sort and test our wafers at Toshiba in Yokkaichi, Japan, and Ardentec Corporation in Taiwan. Our flash memory products are assembled in both our in-house assembly and test facility in Shanghai, China, and through our network of contract manufacturers, including STATS ChipPAC Ltd., or STATS ChipPAC, in China, and Siliconware Precision Industries Co., Ltd., or SPIL, in Taiwan. Our packaged memory final test, card assembly and card test is performed at our in-house facility and at subcontractors such as SPIL and United Test and Assembly Center Ltd., in Taiwan, and Beautiful Enterprise Co., Ltd., Flextronics International Ltd., or Flextronics, Global Brands Manufacture Ltd. and STATS ChipPAC, in China. We believe the use of both our in-house assembly and test facility as well as subcontractors reduces the cost of our operations, provides flexibility and gives us access to increased production capacity.
Ventures with Toshiba
We and Toshiba have successfully partnered in several flash memory manufacturing business ventures, which provide us leading edge, cost competitive NAND wafers for our end products. From May 2000 to May 2008, FlashVision Ltd., or FlashVision, operated and produced 200-millimeter NAND flash memory wafers. In September 2004, we and Toshiba formed Flash Partners Ltd., or Flash Partners, which produces 300-millimeter NAND flash wafers in Toshiba’s Fab 3. In July 2006, we and Toshiba formed Flash Alliance Ltd., or Flash Alliance, a 300-millimeter wafer fabrication facility which began initial production in the third quarter of fiscal year 2007 in Toshiba’s Fab 4.
With the Flash Partners and Flash Alliance ventures, hereinafter collectively referred to as Flash Ventures, located at Toshiba’s Yokkaichi Japan operations, we and Toshiba collaborate in the development and manufacture of NAND-based flash memory wafers using the semiconductor manufacturing equipment owned or leased by each venture entity. We hold a 49.9% ownership position in each of the current Toshiba and SanDisk venture entities. Each venture entity purchases wafers from Toshiba at cost and then resells those wafers to us and Toshiba at cost plus a mark-up. We are committed to purchase half of each venture’s NAND wafer supply or pay for half of the venture’s fixed costs regardless of the output we choose to purchase. We are also committed to fund 49.9% of each venture’s costs to the extent that the venture’s revenues from wafer sales to us and Toshiba are insufficient to cover these costs. The investments in each venture entity are shared equally between us and Toshiba. Our committed capacity from Flash Ventures was approximately 1.5 million wafers per year as of the end of fiscal year 2009. In addition, we have the right to purchase a certain amount of wafers from Toshiba on a foundry basis.
As of January 3, 2010, we had 3,267 full-time employees, including 1,236 in research and development, 443 in sales and marketing, 398 in general and administration, and 1,190 in operations. None of our employees are represented by a collective bargaining agreement and we have never experienced any work stoppage. We believe that our employee relations are satisfactory