The latest downturn in the memory market has resulted from slowing PC shipment growth and extensive inventory build-up, which dates back to last year.
Gartner Dataquest expects total memory market revenue to fall from $54.1 billion last year to $33.8 billion this year, a phenomenal 37.5 percent drop. This decline is projected to be followed by partial recovery in the second half of 2002 and sustained growth through 2004. Revenue will likely peak at $87 billion by 2004.
Revenue composition has become fragmented, with DRAM and SRAM accounting for just over 70 percent of revenue in 2001, compared with almost 90 percent in 1995. Flash memory is responsible for the shift. Having increased to one-fifth of total revenue this year, flash memory is expected to reach one-third by 2005.
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Memory makers ride out downturn
The trend toward mobile devices is also driving technology development in DRAM and SRAM. Mobile-friendly features such as low power, chip scale packaging and multichip-packaged "combo" devices have gained great importance.
Since mobile devices are the wave of the future, memory manufacturers may appear immune to future downturns. However, rapidly slowing growth in the flash market of 2001 after triple-digit growth rates in 2000 suggests otherwise.
Memory market "boom and bust" cycles will continue. Vendors will attempt to insulate themselves from the bust times by developing products for specific applications, such as fast SRAM for networking products and code storage flash memory for digital cellular handsets.
(For a related commentary on semiconductor markets and manufacturing, see Gartner.com.)
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