Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Memory Chips Are About to Get Cheaper

Market research firm iSuppli says it expects a “huge drop” in the selling price of computer memory chips this year. After a run-up of more than 77 percent in price for DRAM chips during 2010, it expects a drop of nearly 12 percent this year.

DRAM is the ultimate commodity chip market, and its boom-or-bust cycles are legendary. When demand picks up, manufacturers like Samsung, Hynix and Micron always rush to add manufacturing capacity–prices pick up; chips become scarce.

Everything seemed to be going well for the chip companies until the third quarter of 2010. After five straight quarters where the average price for a DRAM chip increased, it suddenly turned south as demand for notebook PCs slacked. That’s in line with what Gartner and IDC reported yesterday about the PC market.

There’s good news for consumers, however. All that stacked-up inventory has to go somewhere. If you’re planning to buy a notebook this year, the base models will now start shipping with four gigabytes of memory instead of two. And for those who bought a machine with only two in the last year or so, upgrades will be more affordable.

The one bright spot for the memory companies? You got it: Smartphones and tablets. Memory content in phones is expected to increase by nearly two-thirds. And the 57 million tablets that iSuppli expects will ship this year will also need some DRAM. More details here from iSuppli.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik