Debuts of new PC operating systems (OS) from Microsoft Corp. always have generated double-digit%age increases in quarterly DRAM shipments as well as spurred demand for higher-performance hardware in general. But due to lean hardware requirements of Windows 8 and slow demand for PCs despite of arrival of the new OS, shipments of memory and other hardware will not increase significantly in Q4 2012.
“The release of a new Microsoft OS traditionally has been accompanied by more advanced system requirements, which then fuels growth in the DRAM market as more bits are shipped. However, starting with Windows 7 and continuing with Windows 8, Microsoft has taken a leaner approach with its operating systems, maintaining the same DRAM requirements as before. Meanwhile, consumers are continuing to eschew new PC purchases in the fourth quarter, with Windows 8 not expected to change this situation,” said Clifford Leimbach, analyst for memory demand forecasting at IHS.
Global DRAM bit shipments are expected to increase by only 8% in the fourth quarter compared to the third, and this lower growth number includes not only DRAM for PCs, but also in smartphones and tablets. Therefore, the release of Windows 8 will not catalyze increase of DRAM pricing.
New Windows Platforms – Major Drivers for DRAM Demand
Back in the past, the release of Windows 3.1 caused DRAM bit shipments to increase by 29% sequentially in the first quarter of 1992, compared to just a 12% climb in the earlier quarter. A similar heady expansion was seen with Windows 95 in light of a 23% advance during the fourth quarter of 1995. Prior to the surge, DRAM bit shipments had been growing on average by 11% to 14% in the previous four quarters. An even bigger rise in DRAM bit shipments took place at the time of Windows 98, when DRAM bit shipments rose 40% in the third quarter of 1998 at the time of the new OS, compared to bit shipment growth of 4 to 16% in the earlier four quarters.
Two of the biggest upward movements in DRAM bit shipments occurred around the time that Windows 2000 and Windows XP were introduced. Compared to their previous-quarter levels, DRAM bit shipments jumped 49% in the first quarter of 2000 due to Windows 2000, while DRAM bit shipments swelled 41% in the third quarter of 2001 because of Windows XP.
The exuberant expansion started to slow down, however, in the last two Windows operating systems. Only a 24% rise in DRAM bit shipments resulted with Windows Vista in the first quarter of 2007. Windows 7, which did not require more memory to operate than the previous member of the Windows line, saw a further attenuation in growth, to just 18% in the fourth quarter of 2009. DRAM growth at the time also was slowing perceptibly, coinciding with the start of the economic recession.
The End of the OS DRAM Boom
Now with Windows 8, DRAM bit growth in the market has decelerated even more. Shipments of DRAM are expected to increase by 8% in the fourth quarter of 2012 – the lowest rate of growth among all Windows operating systems dating to Windows 3.1, covering a span of more than 20 years. Instead of additional DRAM for computers purely due to higher DRAM requirements, the increased uptake of the memory will be found in smartphones and tablets and refreshed PCs combined, accounting for the gain of DRAM bit shipments in the fourth quarter.