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Apple to boost standard Mac memory alongside Tiger debut

By mid-year, Apple is likely to include a minimum of 512MB of RAM in each of the Macs it sells, double the amount of standard memory shipping in most of today\'s models.

Sources say Apple intends to complete the move by mid-year, around the same time it begins shipping its next-generation operating system, Mac OS X 10.4 \"Tiger.\"

Although Tiger will not require 512MB of RAM, insiders say the boost in memory spec will assure consumers a smoother experience running both Tiger and Apple’s iLife ’05 digital lifestyle software suite. They added that the upgrade is “much needed.”

Last January, the Mac maker begun offering 512MB of built-in memory across its PowerBook G4 line; some of the company’s higher-end Power Mac desktops also ship standard with this higher memory capacity. But for the most part, the standard configured Macintosh includes only 256MB of RAM.

For a typical 256MB RAM upgrade (to 512MB), Apple currently charges a modest $75, of which it pockets a significant profit. But doubling the amount of RAM in all its computers will still carry some additional costs for the company. For this reason, insiders claim that the final stamp of approval — on a per product basis — will remain contingent on the ever-fluctuating DRAM market. This will assure that a sudden DRAM price hike won’t interfere with Apple’s margins. However, the market is likely to work in Apple’s favor, as prices of DRAM are headed for an inevitable price cliff-drop.

Samsung last Dec. said it expects to see prices of its dynamic RAM chips fall by 30 percent in 2005. These sentiments were later seconded in a Gartner research report release just weeks ago, which forecasts that DRAM supply will exceed demand until the end of 2006, possibly driving prices even lower.

But is such a move by Apple unwarranted when trendsetters like Dell continue to ship as little as 128MB of memory with some of its products? Shane Rau, an IDC research analyst, doesn’t see it fair to equate the two.

“Apple\'s customer base has a higher concentration of users working with high-end applications, so this group would likely have higher average memory requirements than another PC manufacturer\'s customer base,” the analyst told AppleInsider. By contrast, he expects that other PC manufacturers, such as Dell, will maintain products with more modest memory configurations.

In June, when Apple is hoping to have completed the full-scale memory boost, DRAM prices should be even cheaper than they are now. Rau says DRAM prices typically soften in the middle of the year, as demand tends to decline.

The boost would make Apple the first major PC manufacturer to include half a Gigabyte of memory in all of its CPU-based products.