According to data released by two IT marketing firms (iSuppli and DRAMeXchange), quad-core CPUs and DDR3 RAM will go mainstream - eventually. We'll have to wait until 2009 until we start seeing these high-power components being used in everyday PCs.
OEMs seem to hold onto old technology as long as they can, even when it's functionally obsoleteThe main obstacle to widespread adoption of these technologies is price. The price of a quad-core CPU is about 170% higher than that of a dual-core CPU, while a 512 MB DDR3 module costs around $180, compared to $23 for a 512MB DDR2 module. The idea is that as costs drop, people will be willing to pay for the extra power whether they need it or not.
While marketing companies look at this as purely a price issue, there's also an issue of need. Dual-core CPUs, especially the latest Core 2 Duo CPUs by Intel, seem capable of delivering more power than the average user needs. Unless high-end gaming, video editing or simulated protein folding become really popular over the next few years, I really don't see why people will need quad-core and DDR3 (unless they are worried about their Windows boot-up times). If you believe the marketing folks that work for AMD and Intel, everyone wants to be simultaneously burning DVDs, playing a video game and rendering video, all while chatting to a group of friends on Skype or Windows Live Messenger. In the real world I don't come across many people who try to do all that at once. I don't even see Windows 7 changing the playing field all that much, even if Microsoft burns the 32-bit bridges and makes everyone go 64-bit. The additional power would be useful and no doubt welcome by some, but realistically, even then few people will really need the kind of power that quad-cores and DDR3 will be able to offer.
My guess is that while quad-core and DDR3 will be on offer for mainstream rigs by 2009, I don't think that they'll be the norm (based on the fact that Dell are still shipping machines containing Sempron 3400+ CPUs - a CPU first released back in July/August 2005). OEMs seem to hold onto old technology as long as they can, even when it's functionally obsolete (it wouldn't be my idea of fun running Windows Vista on a Sempron 3400+ system, but at a little over $350 people are getting what they pay for). If Vista can't get the OEMs to stop selling low-powered PCs, nothing will.
Thoughts? Are you desperatly waiting for the prices of quad-core CPUs and DDR3 to drop before you buy or are you happy with the power currently on offer to you?