Intel to push Rambus hard in 2001

Has to cos of P4 ramp

Roadmap The introduction of the 1.3GHz Pentium 4 at an attractive price point is part of Intel's overall strategy for this to be the mainstream microprocessor by the end of next year.

That means a big ramboost for Rambus Inc, with SDRAM support unready until Q2 of next year, and DDR promised for the following year, 2002.

And to that end Intel appears to be pulling out all the stops on pricing including, as our Pentium 4 article showed yesterday, by slashing the 1GHz Pentium III by 40 per cent in late January.

But slides we saw earlier in the week from a confidential roadmap indicate that if Intel is successful in its aims, one of the major beneficiaries will be Rambus Inc.

A bullet on one slide said: "The Intel Pentium 4... will provide all performance platforms overall greater than 50 per cent of performance and mainstream platforms by Q4 01 when compared to the Intel Pentium III processor."

As we pointed out in a separate article on Intel's Tualatin yesterday, that will mean much cheaper Pentium IIIs on a .13 micron process. In Q3 of next year, customers have to move Intel 850 (Willamette) based platforms to the mPGA478 socket.

One greater consequence of these moves will mean a Ramboost for Rambus. In the week 51 roadmap, Intel tells its customers to ensure adequate RDRAM supply, and place orders for the memory now, for the ramp on the P4 it is pushing.

Another slide told customers that RDRAM will be Intel's primary memory ramping into the mainstream desktop PC in 2001. "Intel will continue to proactively drive this technology to help vendors come down the learning and price curves more quickly. Be prepared to transition to lower price points if pricing continues to come down."

Brookdale, the Willamette platform for supporting SDRAM, will push into the Mainstream One sector in Q3 of next year. Another slide said: "Brookdale SDRAM in Q3 provides a high confidence, low cost solution. Brookdale DDR in Q1 of 2002 enables the full range of memory support."

Intel, in the same roadmap, advises its customers to be ready for double data rate (DDR) memory when it is robust and the right price. Intel "will add support for DDR for the Pentium 4 platform in Q1 02. There are no plans to offer DDR for Pentium III processors. The immediate focus is to make the technology robust, and volume will depend on the price delta versus RDRAM and SDRAM."

One European PC manufacturer said that last statement begs one big question, with SDRAM currently costing four times less than Rambus memory.

He also suggested that because of Intel's aggressive Pentium 4 strategy, the firm may well have struck deals with memory vendors to bundle RDRAM with its Pentium 4 solutions in Q1 of next year.

We cannot confirm that, but Intel's strategy in 2001 largely hinges on the success of the Pentium 4, and as SDRAM doesn't kick in until the second half, and DDR not until 2002, it seems a distinct possibility.

Later today, notebook chip pricing in 2001. Tomorrow: Update on Foster pricing in 2001. Server strategy in 2001. ®

This week's Intel's leaks so far

Pentium 4 and Pentium III pricing until June
Tualatin and Celeron pricing in 2001
Chipset pricing from Chipsetzilla
Pentium III not long for this world
Intel to slash P4 prices January 28 An earlier, November roadmap
Foster, Xeon prices and strategies leak