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Ouch! The roller coaster ride from memory hell

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Shares in volatile memory company Rambus (ticker: RMBS) fell sharply on Wall Street again yesterday, aided and abetted by IBM, which has never really liked the firm, or the technology anyway. IBM said it has a faster double data rate (DDR) chip under its corporate sleeves than the one Rambus and Intel are cajoling semiconductor manufacturers to produce. An IBM executive yesterday told financial wire Bloomberg that DDR was better than Rambus not only for servers, but for PCs too. At the end of 1998, IBM was instrumental in promoting DDR memory, in the face of some market players which seemed hell-bent on promoting Rambus memory as the killer technology of the future. Market makers, such as third party motherboard firms, have always been reluctant to use Rambus memory, and instead have actively promoted the much cheaper synchronous memory and forced Intel into an embarrassing turnaround last year. They, and major PC vendors, wanted to adopt PC-133, a course which Intel totally ruled out this time last year. Also, and behind the scenes, the major semiconductor firms have always been unhappy at having to hand over two per cent of their already slender margins to Rambus, which truly is a fabless company. IBM's new chips are DDR chips, which even Intel now acknowledges are better for future server technology than "leading edge" Rambus RIMMs. At its Developer Forum in February, the Rambus share price went ballistic after Dr Alfred Yu, a senior VP at the Intel Corporation, said that its future Willamette processor would only work with RIMMs. Later, during the course of the conference, it emerged that was not entirely true. IBM claims that DDR is a better option for both PCs and servers than Rambus. Two weeks ago, a senior executive at Compaq US told The Register his company "would never" use Rambus technology in its servers. HP is widely believed in the industry to have told Intel to drop its support for Rambus in Merced-Itanium and other IA-32 servers, after coming a cropper with the technology last summer. The Rambust Ink share price fell by nearly $51 yesterday, to close at $266 and 37/64, or as most rational people prefer, $266.578125. Last week, the share price reached $471, prompting some to think that it would break through the share equivalent of the sound barrier. A quick glance at a graph of the RMBS share price now reveals a shape reminiscent of the most frightening stage of the old Big Dipper at Belle Vue, Manchester, which also at one time hosted a strange cross between a lion and tiger, dubbed a tigon. The zoo, the dipper, and the tigon are now, alas, no more. ®

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