Megahurtz, memory wars exercise in futility

Bitter battles blight technology firms

Comment Marketing disputes between chip firms like Intel and AMD and memory companies like Rambus and Micron may be interesting for industry watchers but are certain to throw doubt into the minds of people buying PCs.

This year, Intel and AMD have fought a continuing battle with only one clear benefit for the consumer – a drop in prices of the highest rated microprocessors.

But in the process of slogging it out, both Intel and AMD stand to confuse PC buyers even more. The issue is complicated by types of memory used, possible incompatibilities between different types of CPU packaging and the motherboards punters use, forward leaks about prices, and ever-faster chips appearing on the horizon.

Some might suspect the PC and chip companies of being even more cynical about the people that buy their equipment than journalists who write about the technology.

Legal argy-bargy between the different memory companies is also likely to have a serious effect on the entire PC industry, and eventually on consumers too.

Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers who make technology that host CPUs and memory modules, and who also sell those mainboards to large PC vendors including Compaq, Dell, HP and IBM, as well as a myriad of smaller PC companies, face months of design work being consigned to the dustbin while they wait for court decisions. Patent can take years to resolve.

It makes things more complicated than need be.

And the battle between AMD and Intel over how much faster one processor runs than another is beginning to be little more than an exercise in futility, from the outside.

If you've got a Windows box, you don't necessarily need a faster CPU to make it sing. Just bunging in extra memory, which is still relatively inexpensive, will produce far better results for your application software, at a fraction of the cost.

While it is obviously important for firms like Rambus, Hyundai and the others to establish who owns which memory patents, the current flurry of litigation between the companies would, on the face of it, only seem to enrich lawyers, delay the arrival of better technology, and put money in the pockets of people who gamble on the share prices of the firms. From the outside, this seems yet another exercise in futility, allied to a strange sort of techy-machismo.

If these chip and PC companies do actually care about their customers, you'd think they'd spend less time bickering and more time making it easier, rather than harder, wouldn't you?

But it seems that the power of the mighty $ means that customer care is lip service, and faux concern is the order of the day. ®

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