Mobile Device Memory Chip Demand to Rise as PC Demand Falls

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All those smartphones and tablets that manufacturers are making and consumers are buying typically include a minimum of 512 megabytes to 1 gigabyte of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) in every device. That may not sound like much given the massive amounts of DRAM used in a desktop or laptop, but as many as 570 million or so smartphones alone are expected to ship this year.

To meet the memory requirements of those phones, Taiwan’s Digitimes expects demand for DRAM to top 400 million gigabits (50 million gigabytes) in the fourth quarter of 2013. That’s an increase of 35.5% over the third quarter and a huge jump of more than 70% year-over-year. For the full year, demand is forecast at 1.28 billion gigabits.

Offsetting the massive gains in mobile devices, Digitimes forecasts that slowing sales of desktop and laptop PCs will cut demand for DRAM in PCs by 3.5% quarter-over-quarter. For the full year Digitimes sees PC DRAM demand rising 6.8% to 17.34 billion gigabits.

DRAM makers like Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU), Samsung Electronics, and SK Hynix are the beneficiaries of the overall increase in demand. A fire in Hynix’s Wuxi, China, plant earlier this month has lifted spot prices to a two-year high, though the plant is expected to resume production sometime next month and be at full production in November.

Micron shares have risen 25% since the Hynix fire, as 2 gigabit DRAM prices rose from around $1.60 to $2.27 per chip. Shares are up nearly 3% again today at $17.47 in a 52-week range of $5.16 to $17.59.