Samsung on Monday announced what it claims is the industry's first 30nm class DRAM to successfully complete customer evaluations in 2Gb (gigabit) densities.
"Our accelerated development of next generation 30nm-class DRAM should keep us in the most competitive position in the memory market," said Soo-In Cho, president, Memory Division, Samsung Electronics. "Our 30nm-class process technology will provide the most advanced low-power DDR3 available today and therein the most efficient DRAM solutions anywhere for the introduction of consumer electronics and server systems."
According to Samsung, shrinking down to a 30nm manufacturing process allows the company to raise production by 60 percent over 40nm-class DDR3. And as far as consumers are concerned, the company's Green DRAM lowers power consumption by up to 30 percent over 50nm-class DRAM. To give a real world example, Samsung says a 4GB, 30nm module will consume only 3W per hour in a new generation notebook.
Both AMD and Intel have fully embraced DDR3, and as a result, no one wants DDR2 anymore. Demand for DDR2 has fallen by the wayside, while DDR3 is selling through the roof. For Korea-based DRAM makers, the situation has left them with a surplus of DDR2 modules, and they don't want them any more than consumers do.
The solution? Bundle DDR3 modules with DDR2 chips. Doing so will help clear out DDR2 inventories that have been piling up, and will also help keep the price gap between the two standards from widening. According to DigiTimes' industry sources, the strategy is to minimize the impact that a DDR2 oversupply and DDR3 shortage would have on the market.
As it stands, sport market prices for 1.3GHz 1Gb DDR3 chips are averaging about $3.08, compared to $2.50 for 800MHz 1Gb DDR2 chips, according to the latest data from DRAMeXchange.
The new year is supposed to bring about change, but it might just be more of the same, at least in the memory industry. According to Simon Chen, chairman of memory maker A-Data, DRAM chip supply will remain tight throughout most of 2010.
On the plus side, Chen doesn't anticipate any major price hikes. But he did warn that with major producers playing it conservative the past couple of years rather than putting a bigger focus on capacity expansion, supply will have a tough time keeping up with demand.
Chen's comments fall in line with a recent DRAMeXchange report suggesting the market will see a shortage, which seems to be the general sentiment in the memory industry. Elpida Memory CEO Yukio Sakamoto recently voiced the same concern.
As for A-Data, Chen said his company plans to add 3 or 4 new overseas offices, bringing the total to 16 or 17. The new offices will most likely be opened in China, India, or both.
Timing the purchase of RAM can be as maddening as trying to predict the stock market. It's entirely possible to plunk down a wad of cash on a memory kit, only to watch as prices plummet a week later. That said, if you're in need of a memory upgrade, now might be a good time to buy.
Or at least that's the message we take away from market research firm DRAMeXchange, who warns that a DRAM shortage looms. The firm notes a lack of capital investment as the reason why, adding that there's already a shortage of some memory densities because of a recovery in the PC market. DRAMeXchange says some OEMs paid as much as $55 for 2GB DDR2 modules in the sport market.
The firm says that year-on-year PC shipment growth could climb to 13 percent in 2010, putting pressure on memory makers to keep up with demand.
There's not much time left to get on Santa's 'Nice' list, and if your'e hoping to score some RAM this holiday shopping season, that's a place you'll want to be. Why? Because memory makers are forecasting a DRAM price drop in December.
In addition to the usual seasonal demand, DRAM vendors say it's likely chip makers who have already turned a profit will decide to flex their cost competitiveness muscle and slash prices to drive up shipments.
The latest rumblings run counter to previously reports which suggested that major DRAM producers would try to push chip prices upward, but that no longer appears likely. The opposite has already begun, with the average spot price for branded 1Gb DDR2 chips trending down 0.76 percent to close at $2.60 on Tuesday, according to data from DRAMeXchange.
Talk about déjà vu. it's been a rough year-plus for DRAM manufacturers, who have had to contend with an oversupply of chips, falling prices, and a global recession on top of it all. At least one vendor said the DRAM market was the worst he'd seen it in 15 years. So it's a little bit curious that after finally showing signs of a rebound, memory makers appear stoked about an expected reduction in production costs in 2010.
It would make sense, provided the savings aren't passed on to the consumer, but that's usually not the way it works. Nevertheless, as memory makers compete with each other in a race to shrink dies, production costs are set to go down pretty significantly, DigiTimes reports.
Samsung has already adopted a 56nm process for over half of its DRAM output and has been churning out DDR3 chips using 40nm technology in small volume since the fourth quarter. By the second half of 2010, Samsung is expected to be heavily focused on 40nm.
Eplida and Nanya are also flirting with shrunken dies. And according to a recent iSuppli report, the worldwide DRAM industry has the manufacturing capacity to last through 2012.
It all sounds positive, until you consider the current condition of the memory market. But hey, from a consumer side, this is gravy. Bring on the faster, less expensive DDR3 modules.
The DRAM market slumped to a 15-year nadir last year. But it is now moving briskly on the road to recovery. According to DRAMeXchange, contract prices for 1Gb DDR2 and 1Gb DDR3 chips shot up by 15.7% and 10.9%, respectively, in the late part of October. Nanya Technology's vice president and spokesperson Pai Pei-Lin expects an encore from the DRAM market in November. He believes November will bring yet another double-digit rise in contract quotes for DRAM memory.
Perhaps the DRAM market is on the road to recovery after all. Business has picked up as of late, and according to Pai Pei-Lin, VP and spokesperson of Nanya Technology, contract prices for DRAM chips will continue to climb next month.
In a sort of domino effect, Pai said he expects Windows 7 to set in motion a long overdue upgrade cycle that has been stalled the past three years because of disinterest in Vista. This will mean even higher demand for DRAM chips, potentially reaching the DRAM market's peak it in 1995, and ultimately a shortage of chips in 2010 as memory makers reach their limits in capacity output.
According to Pai, DDR2 and DDR3 will likely split the market evenly in the first quarter of 2010, but their could be a pricing disparity. Contract prices for DDR2 chips have been rising since August and finally surpassed DDR3 this month, and that trend looks to continue for at least the next couple of months, Pai noted.
For probably the first time in a very long time, the future appears bright for the memory market. Either that, or A-Data chairman Simon Chen is sporting an awfully bright pair of rose-colored glasses.
According to Chen, both the NAND flash and DRAM sectors have recovered in the second half of 2009, following the easing of an oversupply of chips that previously kept prices uncomfortably low. Chen views this as a positive sign moving forward, saying the overall memory sector is expected to return to its 2006 or 2007 form in 2010.
If true, this bodes particularly well for A-Data, who has aspirations of once again reigning as the most profitable among Taiwan-based memory module companies in 2010. A-Data is planning on expanding in India, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico, and according to Chen, sales generated from the emerging markets should grow significantly in 2010.