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Micron to boost memory chip production

The memory maker says chips based on faster designs will account for up to 30 percent of its production mix by year's end compared with 5 percent now.

Micron Technology plans to increase its production of double data rate (DDR) memory chips nearly sixfold by the end of the year.

The Boise, Idaho-based memory maker said Wednesday that chips based on faster DDR designs will account for up to 30 percent of its product mix by year's end, up from about 5 percent now.

The move to increase DDR production was "based on lots of input from customers," said Jeff Mailoux, marketing director for Micron's Consumer and Computing Group.

"There are a lot of (Advanced Micro Devices) systems that are already shipping" with DDR, he said, adding that Micron has plans for other DDR products, such as chipsets for servers and for computers with Intel's Pentium 4 chip.

DDR is an important product for Micron because it eventually will be one of the types of memory to displace today's widely used synchronous dynamic RAM. At its fastest speed, DDR more than doubles the peak memory bandwidth of PC 133, the fastest SDRAM.

Micron's own PC company, Micron Electronics, and other computer makers such as Compaq Computer have been quick to adopt DDR for use in high-end PCs with AMD's Athlon processor. DDR will also become a fixture in servers, analysts say.

DDR competes directly with memory based on designs from Rambus. All computers with the Pentium 4 currently use Rambus memory, although chipsets are coming soon that will allow PC makers to marry the Pentium 4 to SDRAM and later to DDR.

Micron Technology has been one of the more vocal supporters of DDR and is engaged in a bitter series of lawsuits with Rambus. Samsung and Toshiba, meanwhile, have both said they will increase production of Rambus memory. Samsung has also received a cash infusion from Intel to produce Rambus.

Micron began DDR production in late 2000. The technology currently accounts for only about 5 percent of its total memory mix, which includes a range of DRAM-based products. Mailoux points out that the company isn't boosting its overall production. Instead, it's replacing current memory products with DDR.

As DDR production increases, the price should drop on PC 2100 memory, which at 266MHz is the fastest available DDR. Right now, Micron said, PC 2100 memory fetches about a 10 percent premium over PC 133 SDRAM.

But real-world price differences are higher. Prices on 128MB DDR modules from various manufacturers start at $75 to $85, as reported by Pricewatch.com on Wednesday. Prices on 128MB PC 133 modules from brand-name manufacturers started at about $43 to $50, with generic modules starting in the $30 range.

Following a slide last year, SDRAM prices have stabilized in recent weeks.