Down in the Dumps DRAM Market Will See Little Relief from Windows 8

Paul Lilly

Historically speaking, if there's one thing memory chip makers could count on, it's that a new operating system from Microsoft would lead to double-digit percentage increases in quarterly DRAM shipments. That is, until now. According to IHS iSuppli , Windows 8 will have a positive impact in DRAM shipments, but quarterly growth this time around is expected to stay in single-digit territory.

IHS iSuppli predicts an 8 percent rise in DRAM shipments during the fourth quarter compared to the third. That figure takes into account DRAM for PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Why the sudden change? Part of the reason is because Windows 8 isn't a resource hog.

"The release of a new Microsoft OS traditionally has been accompanied by more advanced system requirements, which then fuels growth in the DRAM market as more bits are shipped," said Clifford Leimbach , analyst for memory demand forecasting at IHS. "However, starting with Windows 7 and continuing with Windows 8, Microsoft has taken a leaner approach with its operating systems, maintaining the same DRAM requirements as before. Meanwhile, consumers are continuing to eschew new PC purchases in the fourth quarter, with Windows 8 not expected to change this situation."

DRAM demand was at its highest when Microsoft released Windows 2000. At the time, DRAM shipments jumped 49 percent sequentially. That number has steadily dropped with each new OS. The launch of Windows XP propelled DRAM shipments by 41 percent, while Vista and Windows 7 saw DRAM shipments increase sequentially by around 24 percent and 18 percent, respectively. IHS iSuppli says the rate of growth in DRAM shipments in the fourth quarter will be the lowest it's been among all operating systems dating back to Windows 3.1, covering a span of more than two decades.

"All told, PCs will not be as important to the overall DRAM market moving forward," IHS iSuppli says. "PC share in the DRAM space dipped below 50 percent for the first time earlier this year, while alternative devices using DRAM—such as smartphones and media tablets—are raising their usage and DRAM market share."

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