San Francisco (CA) - During IDF we had a chance to sit down with Andy Paul, chief executive officer of Corsair, and talk about challenges for one of the world’s largest performance memory makers - and user trends that are impacting the industry.
Not too long ago, performance memory was purchased mainly by overclockers as an essential component that was capable of significantly increasing system performance. But this rather small market segment has developed to become a substantial global business : Corsair says it is shipping more than 500,000 memory modules every month.
According to Andy Paul, the market landscape is changing for performance memory makers. While the technology is relatively static for about two years - the company still offers DDR1-400 devices - the demands of users have changed. Overclockers today account for just about 5 percent of Corsair’s customers ; 85 percent are savvy users who are simply building or upgrading their own system. "We have saturated the overclocking market. It is not growing as fast as we are overall," he said.
The fact that technology is changing in a rather slow pace and the rather small gains in systems performance that can be achieved with performance memory does not really help to find new customers. But Paul believes that "high-tech is not always just about the technology." The brand as well as even very little performance potential that may appear insignificant to mainstream users is what wins customers over in today’s market.
He sees the understanding of the customer base as well as a strategy of building and maintaining a "trusted brand" and products users can brag about as key elements of Corsair’s success. Bragging rights these days come standard with memory for modders, which for example includes blinking LEDs as well as scrolling text fields. Paul conceded that real-world performance gains achieved with performance memory may not be much, but he believes that even small increases are "enormous for people who care about it." This especially applies to gamers who try to squeeze a few more milliseconds of speed out of their system.
Corsair is present in virtually any mature market worldwide and Paul said that the company is on the lookout for so-called emerging markets - an area which becomes increasingly important for IT firms to maintain or increase their pace of growth. But since performance memory relies on brand recognition and the willingness of users to spend more money for that extra bit of performance and bragging rights, firms such as Corsair are likely to always trail companies that offer mainstream products in that strategy. According to Paul, China begins to look "very interesting" for performance memory makers, while he is "not yet interested" in other emerging countries such as India.
Another promising segment for premium memory appears to be notebook memory. With notebooks pretty much the form factor that keeps PC shipment growth on track these days and more and more gamers looking to notebooks as gaming machines, it is very likely that performance memory will be demanded in this market segment as well. Paul said that SO-DIMMs already are Corsair’s fastest growing memory business and he "absolutely" believes that there will be a place for high-end SO-DIMMs. Just as in the desktop space, Paul expects this segment to become more important "as soon as people start building their notebooks and invest more into upgrading their existing devices."