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Intel begins climb-down on PC133

And is lucky VIA being cajoled into one of those alliances Intel's so keen on?

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Earlier Register stories (Intel outed on PC133) suggesting Intel is planning a volte face on support for PC133 SDRAM have been partially confirmed by a highly reliable source - company CEO Craig Barrett. In an interview with CMP mag Electronic Buyers' News Barrett concedes Intel has "contingency plans," but we think it's a wee bit stronger than that. Says Barrett: "If it happens that PC133 becomes a preferred choice, Intel has lots of options for new memory bus lines in chipsets." Not exactly what you'd call a firm commitment, but it certainly means Intel has shifted visibly from the previously official 'not in million years' policy. But as we reported a few days back, Intel has been busily writing to VIA Technologies' customers telling them VIA's PC133 chipset breaches Intel's licence agreement with Intel. Intel seems to be intent on slowing VIA up, but magnanimously says it won't be demanding that VIA recall the offending articles. Nor has cuddly old Intel busted VIA for the breach as yet, although there was the small matter of the "accidental" lawsuit it fired-off last month. Despite appearances to the contrary, all this adds up. You can almost smell the burning rubber as Barrett says "If it happens that PC133 becomes a preferred choice." Right now PC133 is the preferred choice, Intel's Camino problems mean the company has a large and widening hole in its roadmap, and Barrett's handbrake turn is a last-second attempt to avoid it. As we've been predicting for months, Intel's going to have to go PC133. Climbing down gracefully and coming second to VIA isn't however particularly palatable, hence the claim that VIA's chipset is illegal. That one might or might not play in the courts if it came to it, but Intel's intention is more likely to be to coerce VIA into coming to a buddies arrangement where the two stride forward in formation, claiming undying mutual devotion. That would allow Intel, fresh from one antitrust suit, to avoid being seen brutally beating up on a small competitor. But mightn't one see such an arrangement as smelling more than a little of the allegation being made against Intel in the other antitrust suit by Intergraph? If at some point in the near future VIA's chipset miraculously gets the Intel OK after all, and Intel equally miraculously supports PC133, you'd do well to wonder what else might have changed hands. ®

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