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Industry, users to face Intel-Rambus Willamette duopoly

The unholy, unwholesome charm of Romulus and Rambus

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It is widely expected that when Willamette arrives later this year, hopeful third party chipset manufacturers will be prevented from access to its bus technology, and that means only Intel chipsets will be available to support its up-and-coming IA-32 AMD buster.

That, in turn, will mean a huge boost for memory technology firm Rambus, which the company has publicly stated will be the only memory that Willamette will use.

And this also means, unless Intel changes its mind, that customers who wish to stay with its CPUs will be forced to go down the Rambus route.

While this is very handy given the PR and marketing contract both firms have, it is unlikely to meet with rapturous applause from large corporations unless the price of RIMMs tumbles and any particular technical problems go away and stay away.

Pentium III Coppermines, which have different levels of chipset support, will completely disappear within two years or so.

According to insiders close to Intel's plans, the firm has succeeded in splitting the PC desktop market into Pentium and Celeron branding, and in so doing has also associated each with chipsets - the 820 series and the 810 series, and their variants.

And if Intel succeeds in making the love-tryst between it and Rambus technology "until death do them part", that is likely to mean it will be near impossible to perform comparative benchmarks between their solutions and A.N.Other's.

This could be good news or bad news for AMD, which has showed clear signs of gnawing away at Intel's market share during the course of the last nine months. There will no longer be any comparison of like-with-like, but it will instead be an apple and pear situation, industry observers note.

Upstart chip manufacturer Via, however, could be the hope of the PC industry, and according to our information Intel realises this, and for that reason is pursuing legal action vigorously over alleged patent infringements. Via has the potential of being able to release alternative chipsets because of existing Intel cross-licensing agreements, which could involve not only NatSemi, but S3, Texas Instruments and even Cyrix technology.

As one observer rather pithily put it to us: "Once Intel releases a CPU with no cross-licencing of its intellectual property on the bus, gee, like maybe quad-pumped, we're f*****". ®

Register Factoid 667

Intel Rambus is an anagram of terminal bus, as well as Tina Slumber, a well known columnist for Reg Bootnotes, Saint Lumber, the patron saint of wood, and Lars Bitumen, our Danish correspondent, who specialises in wood sealants.

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