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Intel hints Rambus coming to low-end P4 PCs

Systems to break $1000 barrier by year's end, apparently

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Intel Developer Forum Intel Developer Forum, San Jose Rambus-based Pentium 4 systems will be shipping for under $1000 by the end of 2001, Intel VP and General Manager of the Desktop Product Group, Louis Burns, predicted today, in the run up to the start of the latest Intel Developers Forum.

Discussing today's "phenomenal prices" of dual-channel RDRAM-equipped P4 systems, Burns said by the end of the year we'll see them coming in under the $1000 price barrier.

That suggests the company sees RDRAM extending beyond the mainstream desktop sector - it's already well-established as a top-end player - into what Intel calls the Value segment - the Celeron space, in other words. The cut-off point between these two zones - Celeron and PIII/P4 - is the $1000 price point.

Burns' comment also suggests a downward migration of the current 850 chipset, which supports both RDRAM and P4. Either that or Brookdale, the mainstream P4 chipset, due to be launched early this summer, will ultimately offer RDRAM support, just as it is intended to support DDR SDRAM. Alternatively, third-party P4 chipsets will take Rambus into the Value arena. Acer (see Intel awards ALi P4 chipset licence) might be a candidate, but it's support for DDR SDRAM suggests not.

Alas, 'Monty' Burns was unable to clarify which of the scenarios is the most likely, but we hope to find out more as IDF progresses.

Our feeling is toward the latter option, but that's a very cautious prediction. By the end of the year, P4 should have almost pushed the PIII - by then in its 0.13 micron Tualatin form - out of the mainstream segment. Tualatin will also extend into the Celeron space, ultimately to take the Celeron line to 1GHz and upward, and bringing a 133MHz frontside bus to the Value sector, come 2002. Tualatin will sit on Brookdale.

Northwood, the 0.13 micron P4, is due in a similar timeframe, pushing the current P4 further down the price line.

Burns confirmed comments by colleague Pat Gelsinger that the P4 will be promoted vigorously during the second half of the year. Chipzilla will be pushing "hard, hard, hard" to drive P4 into the mainstream, Burns said. To a great extent, that drive will be lead by Brookdale's use of SDRAM, but RDRAM is the technology of the future, according to Intel, so it's clearly hoping for some big RDRAM price breakthroughs this year. Burns' comments suggests they're going to get them.

And if low-cost RDRAM does enter the value segment, that's going to make it rather harder for DDR SDRAM to establish itself, even if Brookdale ultimately supports DDR too, as it's scheduled to do early 2002. ®

Bootnote

Chipzilla is certainly going to have a tough time persuading buyers of the value of P4 - at least if of crowd of European and Asian hacks gathered at IDF is anything to go by. Asked by Burns who was using a P4 system, only a handful of the assembly could be persuaded to raise their hands in the affirmative. Asked how many had actually bought their P4 systems, and only a few hands remained aloft. No one at all admitted to an intention to buy a P4 system with their own money...

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