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Samsung threatens to leapfrog memory market

Wants 1GB DRAM to become next standard chip.

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Samsung plans to make 1GB DRAM the industry's de facto memory chip and is greatly expanding its production of them to spark demand, the company said today.

The South Korean company is the world's largest memory chip maker and accounts for more than a quarter of all DRAM produced globally, giving it the power to help determine future chip generations. If it succeeds in swaying the market to accept 1GB DRAM earlier than anticipated, the change would directly affect many PC buyers.

Swaying the market may not be easy, however. The most widely used DRAM today is 256MB, one fourth the capacity Samsung is proposing. Analysts expect the next mainstream DRAM to be 512MB. Chips of that capacity are expected to move into the mainstream later this year and remain there well into 2006, according to DRAMeXchange, an online clearinghouse for memory chips.

But Samsung could upset that timetable with its 1GB chips if it can produce them in sufficient quantities to cause prices to fall.

"We work a little faster than the market trend," said a Samsung spokeswoman. The company can make more money by introducing new products earlier, since people are usually willing to pay more for them. Samsung is initially targeting servers and high-end PCs with the 1GBchips, which come in DDR or DDR2 specifications, running at 400MHz and 533MHz.

Higher-capacity DRAM chips could help end users, since PC makers normally provide the minimum DRAM necessary to ensure smooth operation of a computer. More DRAM can boost performance, especially for larger software applications or when users run multiple programs at the same time.

Samsung sent samples of the 1GB chips to customers months ago so they could test them and work them into new system designs, it said.

The company has just started mass-producing the higher-capacity chips using an advanced 90-nanometre manufacturing technology, which helps to lower power consumption, make chips less prone to overheating and provide better overall performance.


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