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Trends 2004

Thursday, November 6, 2003  

Trends 2004


We are sitting at the last quarter of 2003. It is perhaps the best time to look at the crystal ball again and see what is likely going to happen in the new year of 2004.



Intel Announced Support for DDR2 Memory


Intel had just announced the adoption of DDR2 memory at a September 15, 2003 conference. It had shown its roadmap of DDR2 memory supporting chipsets. They are namely the Lindenhurst, Grantsdale, and the Twincastle. Of that, only the Grantsdale supports unbuffered DDR2 modules. The intend is clearly weighted heavily onto the registered DIMM module for servers.




On the other hand, DocMemory see this forced transition to DDR2 might possible run into hard labor. The question, “Is the computer industry ready for DDR2?”


  1. Consumers might not be ready to accept the initial price premium of a new generation of memory. It has been demonstrated over and over again in history that new memory technology only become mainstream when it reaches price parity with the older technology.
  2. DDR2 memory is in FBGA package. This will change the assembly process at the memory module assembly factories. New inspection and test equipments will have to be purchased In the midst of the PC recession, this might create resistance and thus slow down the change over.
  3. According to Intel, the first generation of DDR2 memory will be running at 400MHz data rate (PC2-3200). From the consumer point of view, this is not an advance in performance as the original DDR is already running at 400MHz data rate. On the other hand, most larger server computers are now still using DDR 266MHz registered DIMM. Intel is seeing that advancing to DDR2 400MHz memory for the server will enhance the performance. I think we will have to leave this matter to the users for their judgment.
  4. There are also inventory level to consider. The slow PC market has DRAM vendors over-produced many DDR memory chips. These will have to be burn-off before DDR2 prices can be finally regulated.


GDDR2 and GDDR3 for graphic applications  


GDDR2 and GDDR3 are new graphic memory standards pushed by the two graphical card giants ATI and nVidia. These memories are based on technology similar to DDR and DDR2 but with some tweaking to achieve higher performance.  Their fate depends on the customer’s willingness to pay for performance and quick adoption to bring the price down to competitive level.



The Home Entertainment PC




Consumer applications will revive the PC market in 2004. PC will take form of set-top-box. PC will be sold for TV and entertainment center applications. The TV will no longer come with a tuner. Instead, TV screens will be sold as a HD (High Definition) monitor. The tuner will be built into a small form factor PC together with digital delay recording function and infrared remote control. The consumer will be able to watch TV program without commercial interruption. His experience will be in high definition and high quality sound. He can also surf the web, and send emails through the TV. The TV will also double as his music player and download center. These entertainment PC’s will likely use small form factor memory modules like SODIMM. This might start a revival of the memory market.


Cheaper and bigger LCD displays will surface to replace the CRT tube used in TV’s for the last 50 years. 23 to 27 inches flat panel LCD screens will become affordable to some American households. For anything bigger than 27 inches, most people would resort to the new “high resolution projection monitors”. These are nothing but a high resolution mirror projection TV without a tuner.


For people who want to watch TV at bigger than 60 inches, they will go to digital projectors. Price drop on digital projectors will lead to more and more home cinema setups.


Gamers’ New Experience



Video game players will explore online gaming experience. Number of game boxes sold will increase to this new way of playing. They will want higher and higher performance machines to fulfill their urge. More players will go for “over clocking” and “supper-cooling” on their PC to increase performance. It will not be surprised to find increase market on systems with large cache memory as well as DDR 533 MHz memory modules.



Real Time Online Video Rental a Reality


We have talked about video streaming for several years already. It is about time it really shows. Blockbuster and other national video rental will experiment with real time rental through online video streaming. Homes that are equipped with broadband Internet will have access to this service. It will be real movie-on-demand into homes that have broadband communications. Video rental will never be the same again. Although this might take a few more years to mature, but it will increase the need for multi-media computer and memories.



The Well Forecasted Server Market


The telecomm market collapse in 2002 had created a huge surplus of large servers. The market is just started to level out. As the performance of the basic computer goes up, more people will be choosing the basic office computer to share some of the tasks of the big server. Smaller machines like blade server and rack servers will become more popular. Users will be splitting the huge server task into multiple units of smaller servers. The numbers of “server” will increase.



Since server applications are concentrated on stability and not performance, we will see more registered DIMM sold for the higher number of small servers that are coming into the market. In any case, data security is the main focus.


Together with the servers, IT jobs will be generated. We will find the IT programming industry revived once again.



What About Magnetic RAM ?


Ferro-RAM or magnetic RAM prototypes made sporadic news over 2003. Magnetic RAM promises SRAM performance at non-volatile properties. Dielectric material has advanced. It is now possible to take these technologies into products. Significant inroad will be made in magnetic RAM. More investment will be put into this memory category as it will eventually be the replacement for dynamic memories. However, the technology is still in its infancy. Favorable pricing and mass adoption is still 5 years away.



2004 Will Be The Year For Flash Memory


NAND flash memory now allows multilevel threshold thus generating a possible 2 bits memories for every cell. This property allows the flash memory to double its density for the same cost. NAND flash is now possible at half the cost of regular DRAM. This fuels an explosion on flash memory sizes. It has quickly found applications into digital cameras, jump drives, and many different forms of flash cards. Jump drives will replace the convention floppy drive while digital camera will take on larger memory as their picture resolution increases. We will see flash memory evolve into a commodity. More merchants will jump onto the band wagon.



Rambus Refuse to Go Away


Since the start of this year, Rambus' XDR interface technology--previously code-named "Yellowstone"--has been targeted at breaking DRAM bottlenecks in consumer graphics systems and networking equipment, but today the company said it has created a new signaling technique and memory module form factor to address PC applications.

Running at 3.2-GHz speed, the XDR DRAMs are expected to offers eight times the bandwidth of today's most advanced PC memories. The use of differential signaling in XDR interfaces allows it to scale to 6.4 GHz and beyond, providing PCs with unprecedented levels of memory performance, according to Rambus.


Samsung said it sees the XDR DRAMs as an ideal solution for high-performance, low-cost consumer, graphics and networking applications. Sony Corp. and Toshiba have also licensed the XDR interface for controller and processor applications, including Sony's 128-bit "Cell" RISC processor.



Wireless Will Grow Out Of StarBuck


Way-Point and T-Mobile are now dominate operators on wireless hot-spots. They charge about $9 for a 24 hours usage. Coverage is at major airport, StarBuck and McDonalds. As competition comes in, price will drop. We will see eventual advertiser supported hot-spot in most public places. Adoption of 802.11xx wireless cards and Blue tooth wireless connections will be widen. Most notebook computer user will have wireless network access. Because of this trend, notebook computers will also occupy a bigger piece of the overall PC market. Notebook delivery might actually overcome desktop in quantity.



What About Mobile and Handhelds?


Demand on Smart phone will increase in 2004. Phone users will demand computing capability from their cell phones. Phones will not only have to talk but also calculate. A mix of memory technologies will go into these devices. Flash, DRAM, as well as  magnetic RAM, MEM will all be used. Low power will be the fore front requirement. With transition into 2.5G and 3G, the volume of memory consumed in this area can be very significant.




Memory fabs continue to pop up in China. China will become a significant producing country for DRAMs. Memory manufacturing in other countries might concentrate on specialty memory productions to offset the competition. In any case, we do not foresee any production shortage in general. Price level fluctuation will be very much the same as in the past two years. Memory producers will regulate their output to balance prices and profit. They will probably drive a steady production and small profit margin.



Memory Production Landscape and Pricing

Memory fabs continue to pop up in China. China will become a significant producing country for DRAMs. Memory manufacturing in other countries might concentrate on specialty memory productions to offset the competition. In any case, we do not foresee any production shortage in general. Price level fluctuation will be very much the same as in the past two years. Memory producers will regulate their output to balance prices and profit. They will probably drive a steady production and small profit margin.

By: DocMemory
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