Memory or Electronics -- Who Do You Love?

The computer memory industry stands at a crossroads, and analysts can't agree on where it's going. Will 2011 be a year of feast or famine?

The industry watchers at iSuppli say the market for dynamic random access memory chips is "set for double-digit decline this year." Citing massive volume increases but a steep drop in average unit prices caused by another round of oversupply, iSuppli predicts a 12% drop in total industry revenue.

That's terrible news for memory producer Micron Technology (Nasdaq: MU  ) , but it's great support for the decision by OCZ Technology Group (Nasdaq: OCZ  ) to get out of the DRAM game altogether to refocus on solid-state drives. Builders of computer systems and consumer electronics will appreciate lower component prices, and so will the consumers who buy their products. If iSuppli is correct, we'll see a bonanza in gadgetry this year, including price wars at your local electronics store.

But iSuppli seems to stand alone in that conclusion. Micron had four analysts up price targets overnight, and the bullish observers agree that memory pricing will stabilize and turn back up in the near future. In this view, Micron looks tremendously cheap and that consumerism festival would have to wait until the next downturn.

So whom do you believe? The last supply glut in this industry lasted for the better part of two years, and this instance has barely even started. DRAM module maker SMART Modular Technologies (Nasdaq: SMOD  ) shocked the Street with reports of localized oversupply in Brazil two months ago.

Sure, this could be a mere speed bump -- but the malaise has by all accounts spread across geographies and companies to encompass the whole industry. I'm more inclined to believe the iSuppli report and discount the sudden love for Micron. Be fearful when others are greedy, and there's plenty of greed around the leading DRAM specialist today.

Add Micron to your Foolish watchlist to keep tabs on the pricing situation.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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