Processor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and memory specialist Micron (NASDAQ:MU) recently announced that they will be bringing a new type of memory called 3D XPoint to the market next year. This technology is said to be faster and more reliable than traditional NAND flash used in high-performance solid-state drives today.
Although Intel and Micron should benefit from this technology to the extent that it sees uptake in the market, there is a relatively "under the radar" company that could be well positioned to benefit from this technology: Silicon Motion (NASDAQ:SIMO).
What's the scoop?
Silicon Motion is a well-known vendor of flash controllers for NAND flash-based solid-state drives today. Its controllers have been used by relatively lesser-known drive makers as well as bigger name vendors such as Micron and SanDisk (UNKNOWN:SNDK.DL).
According to DigiTimes, the first drives that use Intel and Micron's 3D XPoint technology, which are expected to launch at some point in 2016, will be powered by Silicon Motion controllers.
In the same report, DigiTimes claims that Silicon Motion will be working with Intel to produce PCI Express solid-state drive controllers for drives set to launch next year.
Why is this a big deal?
Silicon Motion is hardly the only vendor in the solid-state storage-controller game, and if 3D XPoint really takes off it'd be reasonable to expect more entrants into the market, but the article from DigiTimes seems to imply that Silicon Motion will have something of a "first mover" advantage here.
This is doubly interesting because Intel has its own in-house storage controller development teams, so one would reasonably expect that the initial 3D XPoint drives would utilize an Intel-designed controller. Additionally, the news that Intel is working with Silicon Motion to develop controllers for PCI Express solid-state drives (presumably based on more traditional NAND flash) is interesting, especially since Intel develops its own controllers for such drives today.
Might Intel be looking to scale back its in-house controller development efforts and, instead, partner with Silicon Motion to develop controllers to its specifications? If so, Silicon Motion might be a beneficiary given that market research firm IDC reported that Intel captured over 25% market share in data center solid-state drives during the second quarter of 2014.
Silicon Motion is a stock worth watching
Although the 3D XPoint opportunity in and of itself probably isn't going to be a "game changer" for Silicon Motion's business and share price, then -- if the report is true -- this says a lot about the confidence that Intel and Micron have in Silicon Motion's ability to deliver a quality solution in a timely fashion.
Further, according to current analyst estimates, the company is expected to earn $2.07 per share this year, with that figure growing to $2.39 next year. This means that the shares currently trade for about 11.53 times this year's expected earnings and just under 10 times expected earnings in the company's next fiscal year.
This is a stock that might be a good candidate for my portfolio. I plan to perform additional due diligence on the company; I'll report back with both my findings and whether I plan to -- once The Motley Fool's trading restrictions permits -- start building a long position in the coming weeks.