Tablet DRAM Demand to Surge by Factor of Nine in 2011: Market Analyst

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-01-27 Print this article Print

This news, if it bears out, comes at a good time for the worldwide DRAM-producing industry, which has experienced slipping market prices for months.

Following in line with its projection of a continued surge in NAND flash memory sales in 2011, market analyst IHS iSuppli reported Jan. 27 that dynamic RAM demand is expected to explode by a factor of more than nine in 2011.

This news, if it bears out, comes at a good time for worldwide DRAM producers. The projections of much higher memory shipments for tablets this calendar year clashes with the DRAM market's weak performance and retreating average-selling prices in early 2011.

DRAM is the chief form of memory used in tablet PCs, laptops, desktop PCs and other devices. Prices started declining in the third quarter last year, and the trend likely will continue this year, iSuppli said.

Even with the expected upturn in sales, chip vendors such as Samsung, Hynix and Micron are expected to suffer an 11.8 percent decline in DRAM revenue this year, the market analyst said.

The key drivers for future DRAM demand are increased sales of the usual-suspect products:  tablet PCs, mobile phones and cameras. DRAMs provide the active memory cache for applications in these devices; NAND flash generally provides the storage media.

Shipments of DRAM optimized for tablets are projected to reach 353.3 million gigabits this year, up a whopping 834.7 percent from 37.8 million in 2010.

Better Days Ahead for DRAM

Shipments of tablet DRAM will continue to rise during the years to come, surging to 1 billion gigabits in 2012, to 2.2 billion in 2013, and to 3.5 billion in 2014, iSuppli said.

"The DRAM industry is receiving a major boost from tablets, the undisputed stars of this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas," said Mike Howard, principal analyst for DRAM & memory at iSuppli. "At the show, new tablets such as the Xoom from Motorola Inc. and the BlackBerry Playbook from Research in Motion joined recently released rival products made by Samsung Electronics and Dell-devices all intended to dent the overwhelming lead for Apple's iPad."

Worldwide tablet shipments this year are forecast to hit 57.6 million, up from 17.1 million in 2010, iSuppli said. Shipments will continue to climb during the next few years, the analyst said.

However, many new PCs are now shipping with the newer DDR3 (double-data-rate three) version of the devices. DDR3 is a new DRAM interface specification; the actual DRAM arrays that store the data are similar to standard DRAM and provide similar performance. DDR3, however, delivers a cooler-running, less power-intensive type of memory.

One major manufacturer, Samsung, announced earlier this month that it had developed a next-generation DDR4 module using the 30-nanometer-class process technology. DDR4 memory is said to be twice as fast as DDR3, yet consumes half the power. 

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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