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Intel to come clean on i820, Rambus tomorrow

Seven Dramurai crumble, while DDR solidifies

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Intel will tomorrow morning US Satan Clara time hold an analyst briefing at which it is expected to clarify its position on the vexed future of the Camino i820 chipset and Rambus memory technology. As we reported last week, the indications are that it will admit that product is at least three months away. Sources have told The Register that at last week's Microprocessor Forum, Rambus executives were spreading rumours that Intel has isolated and reproduced the near fatal "Camino/Rambus Bug" under a narrow set of circumstances. Now they say Intel must reproduce it with all combinations of motherboards, RIMM vendors, memory capacities and speed grades. Rambus hopes that no additional problems will surface during the process, our source added. Neither company can afford the bad publicity. Thus far in its short life, Rambus already has some serious image problems. It is seen as extremely complex, carries a serious cost penalty and lacks a noticable performance advantage. Micron and IBM, the two OEMs which have already launched Camino alternatives using a Via chipset, probably quite coincidentally, are both semiconductor manufacturers, DRAM manufacturers and Rambus licensees. Compaq, Dell and Gateway do not have such benefits. There is further evidence that more top OEMs are standing back from Rambus. According to highly reliable sources, because the launch of Camino was such a cockup, many PC manufacturers saw Dell's aggressive pricing for its up-and-coming Rambus-based line. That is pushing them further towards PC-133. However, the most astonishing news from one of our normally reliable OEM contacts today, is that Intel is actually advising customers to use Via chipsets in the short term. Intel would never publicly admit that. Another source has told The Register that Micron delivered a DDR SDRAM presentation at the Microprocessor Forum behind closed doors, using its own so-called Samurai chipset for x86 workstations and servers for production next year. If it succeeds in its cunning plan, we are likely to see graphics controllers in Q1 of the year 2000 supporting DDR memory, while in Q3 there will be UMA desktops. That would give DDR a big push in the bid to establish itself as an industry standard. Meanwhile, further evidence has emerged that the Seven Dramurai coalition announced at the Intel Developer Forum last month is crumbling. According to insiders, Samsung, NEC and Hyundai have acknowledged they have put a hold on Rambus production. Toshiba is continuing, but that could be because it will manufacture the memory for Sony. ®

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