Samsung pushing DDR2 into PC mainstream

Memory chip leader Samsung said the shift to DDR2 is accelerating. The chips outpaced its DDR production in July for the first time.

Samsung Electronics, the world's largest memory chip maker, said Thursday that the global shift to a speedier computer memory chip, DDR2 (double data rate, second generation), is accelerating, and that the chips finally account for the majority of its factory output of DRAM (dynamic-RAM).

The DDR2 chips were supposed to take over as the world's most widely used PC memory chip last year, but high prices, the marginal performance boost they offer compared to existing DDR chips, and other factors caused the timeframe to be pushed back, analysts say. In the interim, the original DDR chips, running at 400MHz (megahertz), or DDR-400, have remained the most popular memory for PCs.

Industry attention to the Flash memory market has also held back DDR2, some observers argued.

NAND Flash memory chips stole the spotlight this year because people have been snapping up the main products they end up in -- digital cameras and MP3 players, said Min-Liang Chen, chairman of ProMOS Technologies, a Taiwanese memory chip maker, during a news conference last week.

"DDR2 won't be that big this quarter," he said. "It won't become the mainstream chip until the fourth quarter at the earliest."

Consumer appetite for notebook computers this year has helped prod the industry shift to DDR2 despite the higher costs. Although early versions of DDR2 are only slightly faster than DDR-400, DDR2 chips consume less battery power, an important consideration for laptop users. The chips have also moved into servers already, as well as PCs for gamers and other users who want the best components they can get.

Samsung's push certainly helps. As the world's largest memory chip maker, it can encourage the market to move in the direction of DDR2. The company said its production of DDR2 outpaced DDR for the first time in July, with 40 percent of its total DRAM (dynamic-RAM) output in DDR2 and 30 percent in DDR.

There has also been an upsurge in interest in DDR2 from systems makers including PC builders, something that will continue into 2006, Samsung said.

The company is now producing 256M-bit, 512M-bit and 1G-bit versions of DDR2 chips that run at 533MHz, plus 256M-bit and 512M-bit versions of its new DDR2 that run at 667MHz. The speedier DDR2-667 should help increase attention because they provide a more significant performance boost in terms of speed over DDR-400, analysts say.

DDR2 sales are projected to grow to US$6.5 billion this year from US$1.5 billion last year, and take off in 2006 with global sales valued at US$18 billion, according to De Dios & Associates, a memory chip market research firm.

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