I had a chance to sit down with Micron’s Matthias Buchner, director of segment marketing for Micron’s DRAM product group, to talk about the launch of Windows 7, the memory impact and other trends in the industry.
Chris Smith: Thanks Matthias for talking with me. I was hoping you could give us some perspective on how the launch of Windows 7 today will impact DRAM demand?
Matthias Buchner: Sure, happy to talk with you. It’s important that we first look at it from the OS perspective, and then I’ll touch on the DRAM impact. In general, consumers have been waiting for a reason to purchase an upgraded PC for years. Whereas Windows Vista was an evolutionary step, industry insiders believe that Windows 7 is the revolutionary catalyst that will bring would-be PC buyers off of the sidelines and into the PC market. While I expect that Windows 7 memory content will increase to 4GB from 2GB, I also believe that the launch of Windows 7 will spur DRAM bit growth through increased PC unit sales. Unit growth should be driven by consumers in calendar 2010, followed by the enterprise applications in calendar 2011.
Chris: Do you expect a bigger bounce in memory with the Windows 7 roll-out, compared to Vista?
Matthias: I think it’s important not to compare Vista and Windows 7 because there have not been so many upgrades to Vista. We need to look at it from a perspective of comparing Windows 7 to Windows XP. The expectation now with Windows 7 is that there will be a strong adoption rate, because there hasn’t been anything really new on the PC side for a couple of years, therefore we see a bigger bounce in memory.
Chris: What do you see as the sweet spot for DRAM density in Windows 7-based notebooks? What about netbooks?
Matthias: We see 4GB as the sweet-spot in notebooks with the 2Gb-based DDR3 components spurring this transition, enabling a more cost-efficient way to achieve this density. On the netbook side, most of the systems today are 1GB, I see the density moving to 2GB since with Windows 7 the memory can be expanded. The end-user push will come because netbooks are really used as a secondary notebook, for example, when traveling. Once the consumer is used to the performance of a home computer or notebook, they won’t want to veer too far away from that in terms of performance, so as I mentioned, we see 2GB as the density sweet spot there. Also, it’s important to point out that for desktops, we see the same transition paths as with notebooks.
Chris: What benefit do denser memory modules provide to these systems?
Matthias: The benefit of denser memory modules will arise as a greater number of applications and drivers for the 64-bit architecture begin hitting the market. Until now, the majority of the software applications written for Windows have been optimized for 32-bit architecture despite the OS and hardware being 64-bit-capable for quite some time. Unlocking the true potential of 64-bit optimized software applications will require additional DRAM, especially if multiple 64-bit applications are being used simultaneously.
Chris: Looking bigger picture, what trends do you see happening in DRAM heading into 2010?
Matthias: 2010 is shaping up to be a big year for DRAM technology transitions. The major trend we see is the conversion from DDR2 to DDR3, as well as the density transition in DDR3 from 1Gb-based modules to 2Gb-based modules. The transition to DDR3 has already started on the server side, but we definitely will see a much stronger conversion to DDR3 in computing next year. We also see a trend in reducing power consumption, or lowering voltage in the systems. In moving to DDR3 we are getting down to 1.5-volt, and we see going to 1.35-volt as important. Micron was one of the first companies offering 1.35-volt on DDR3.
Additionally, we see a trend around improved performance. When DDR3 first was introduced it was running at 1066 Mb/s and now we’re at 1333 Mb/s. Next year, in the high-end systems, we’ll be at 1600 Mb/s for DDR3. And as I mentioned earlier, from the module side, with 2Gb DDR3 gaining traction, we see 4GB memory modules being the sweet spot for density with Windows 7, which provides for a more cost-efficient solution.
Chris: What about graphics memory?
Matthias: We see an opportunity for mainstream memory components to serve a majority of the graphics market. We plan to tailor our mainstream DDR3, optimizing memory performance and driving it to achieve the speeds needed for the graphics side. With Windows 7, we also will see desktop systems with a standalone graphics card, which will benefit from the higher performance and density that new DDR3 components will deliver.
Chris: More than ever, consumers seem interested in making their purchases last; for both environmental and economic reasons. Why should consumers be more comfortable about spending money now on a system with Windows 7 and 4GB RAM?
Matthias: To start, Windows 7 is a superior operating system versus Vista. So those that have been wary about purchasing a new computer, or just happy with what they have, should actually see the immediate benefits with Windows 7. Also, though, the normal PC replacement cycle has been burdened by the economic downturn. When comparing a system purchased by a consumer two, three or four years ago, most entry level systems today will have at least 2x the computing power. So the consumer not only gets the new OS, but a system with enough computing power to meet their needs for a while. And with a 4GB system today, consumers should feel comfortable being able to easily upgrade their system to a virtually unlimited amount of DRAM for their system. Users can simply purchase additional DRAM as the technological landscape evolves and more and more memory-hungry applications are introduced over time.
Chris: Do you think there is a pent-up demand that could manifest itself with a Windows 7 system within businesses?
Matthias: We should see a big push in Windows 7 adoption for both notebooks and for desktops - either for new systems or upgrades - in the business environment. One of the great advantages of Windows 7 is that it provides a solution not only for the consumer, but also businesses.
Chris: Thanks again for your time and for your perspective on Windows 7, and what we should expect on the memory side.
Matthias: You are welcome