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Critical PC Memory Transition Coming in Q2 2010

Get ready for faster performance and lower power consumption from your next PC, as the next-generation main memory technology, Double Data Rate 3 (DDR3) SDRAM, rises to dominance in the second quarter of next year, according to iSuppli Corp.

iSuppli predicts DDR3 shipments will rise to account for more than half of the global DRAM market by the second quarter of 2010, surpassing DDR2 for the first time as the leading technology for PC main memory. DDR3’s share of the DRAM market in terms of gigabit-equivalent shipments will rise to 50.9 percent in the second quarter of 2010, up from just 1 percent in the second quarter of 2008 and 14.2 percent in the second quarter of 2009. By the end of 2010, DDR3 will grow to account for 71 percent of shipments.

“DDR3 is 50 percent faster than today’s dominant DRAM technology, DDR2, while using about 30 percent less power,” said Mike Howard, senior DRAM analyst for iSuppli. “For PC users across the board, this means faster performance. For notebook users, it can result in longer battery life.”

The attached figure presents iSuppli’s forecast of the percentage of DRAM gigabit-equivalent shipments by technology.

Process push and processor pull
Two major factors are driving the industry’s transition to DDR3: new Intel Corp. microprocessors and the increasing manufacturability of the part.

Intel’s latest-generation microprocessor microarchitecture, dubbed Nehalem, employs a memory controller that supports only DDR3, unlike the previous Penryn line, which works with both DDR2 and DDR3. With Intel transitioning its microprocessor line to Nehalem-based chips, PC makers will have no choice but to migrate to DDR3 SDRAM.

On the supply side, production of DDR3 has advanced to the point were memory makers can produce it at a competitive cost using leading-edge semiconductor process technology. Because of this, all major DRAM suppliers now are producing DDR3, making the memory more attractive to PC makers who are loathe to be beholden to a single source.

“With DDR3 commanding higher pricing than DDR2, memory makers realize where the big money will be in 2010,” Howard said. “Because of this, they are more than willing to transition production to the new memory technology.”

DDR2 lives on
As availability has increased and prices for DDR3 have fallen, the cost of DDR2 to PC makers actually has risen in recent months because of supply constraints. And despite the rapid rise of DDR3, DDR2 is expected to command significant volumes throughout 2010, accounting for 15.4 percent of gigabit-equivalent shipments the fourth quarter.

For more information on this topic, see iSuppli’s new report, entitled: DDR2 to DDR3 - The Anatomy of a Technology Transition.

 [November 23, 2009]


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