Memory matters, not just for us humans trying to remember what we were supposed to get at the grocery store.
In the digital realm, memory is also increasingly vital, as today's desktop and mobile devices need to have lots of it. This means chip manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to make chips smaller but also give them more power.
In the last year, the industry has been especially interested in DRAM technology, which is becoming the chip of choice to power today's high-performance tablets and mobile phones.
One of the companies poised to do well in this memory-focused world is Micron (NASDAQ:MU).
In the last month, Micron stock has performed well, starting around $17 a share in mid-September.
By the middle of October, shares approached $18.50 a share before settling to the mid-$16 range seen this week.
Yahoo! Finance reported that Micron's sale of DRAM products in fourth quarter FY 2013 were 50% higher than third quarter because of a 42% increase in sales volume and a 5% rise in selling prices.
The NAND Flash products also saw a 5% rise from third to fourth quarters, due to a 17% increase in sales volume combined with an 11% price decline.
Micron's fourth fiscal quarter ended with assets of $4.2 billion and overall stock performance between last October and present day has grown 196.62%, plus a 44.8% rise in revenue, even outperforming the S&P 500 index.
What's more impressive is the acclaim Micron is seeing in the industry. The Street upgraded its stock from hold to buy on Oct. 21, based on decent revenue growth, stock performance and potential income opportunities in the next year.
Russ Fischer echoed this enthusiasm with its own buy recommendation, referring to Micron as "Zero to Hero in 18 months" and saying that Micron has traditionally been in a weak third place in the semiconductor marketplace, but now is taking the opportunity to surge forward into first.
A big part of this is sheer numbers. Micron recently purchased the assets of Elipda for $2.4 billion, which helps it increase its production of chips in larger quantities, which puts it above previously dominant manufacturer Samsung (OTC:SSNLF). Russ Fischer estimates Micron can now create about 600,000 memory wafers a month, compared to Samsung's estimated 400,000.
Another plus for Micron is its recent selection of Serus (NASDAQ:SIRI) to help optimize its global supply chain. Serus will analyze the company's operations and look for ways to be more efficient, especially in using remote data clouds to save and share information.
Now, personnel in different parts of the company or different parts of the world can have access to the same real-time data. This could result in more accurate inventory control and productivity.
Overall, Micron seems poised to do well in this current push, especially with its growing interest in mobile technology solutions, combined with higher prices for chips.
What about its competitors?
Samsung still has a strong global market reach for its chips and mobile products, especially with the Galaxy line of devices.
We've already mentioned that Micron is expected to outperform Samsung as far as head-to-head memory wafer manufacturing. Samsung also is receiving mixed reviews for its Galaxy S lines. The S3 pleased many, the S4 wasn't a huge hit, and some tech watchers say the S5 may also be weak especially if it continues to be plastic -- and plastic looking - as it looks in some of the advance photos.
There are also rumors of a metal Galaxy, but some analysts have been saying that instead of another phone in the same S series, it could be the start of a new Galaxy series, roughly called Galaxy F, that's scheduled to emerge in January.
SK Hynix (OTC:OTC:HXSCL) is also in a unique position, and indirectly has been responsible for Micron's current success. In early September, it suffered a fire at one of its DRAM-producing plants in China. This forced production off-line and also raised demand - and price - for the DRAM chips worldwide, as high as 35 percent. Though early reports expected it would be back online by November, a more realistic timeframe was maybe into January. Then production would be around 130,000-140,000 wafers a month, about half its usual volume.