Intel wants to have DDR cake and eat it

Plays Rambus off against VIA over P4 support

VIA could go ahead with its own DDR chipset for Pentium 4, with or without Intel's agreement.

The world's number one and two chipset makers are known to be discussing an agreement whereby VIA could provide DDR support for the P4 in the light of Intel's current agreement with Rambus which prevents the company from supporting DDR memory on its own chipsets until 2003.

At the same time Intel is also talking to Rambus in a bid to get the three year ban lifted.

Intel needs to introduce DDR support for the P4 very early in 2001 if it is not to be seen to be lagging behind AMD in price performance. The Rambus memory which will be the only option with early P4 systems is still considerably more expensive that the DDR SDRAM which, in most cases, offers comparable performance.

The chip giant would ideally like to have its own DDR chipset offerings for P4, but if the talks with Rambus end in stalemate, it will need to fall back on VIA's ability to introduce just such a chipset. However, Intel doesn't want to sign away its intellectual property to VIA only to find its own hands suddenly untied.

In the meantime, VIA's patience is wearing thin, and this week Taiwan's Commercial Times quoted Timothy Chen, a Via spokesman based in California, as saying:

"It is our plan to make a DDR chipset for the Pentium 4. I can't comment about the timeframe.

"Intel will have a big hole in their roadmap for the next six months," added Chen. "Next year will be the most trying time for Intel."

Back in July, Eric Chang, VIA's director of product marketing, said that although VIA didn't currently have a licence for future IA32 architecture, he was confident that it soon would.

"We've got 40 per cent [chipset] market share now and will have at least 50 per cent by the end of the year," he claimed.

"With that market share, Intel needs us onside." ®

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