The three top South Korean family conglomerates (chaebols) which manufacture DRAM are fighting off further attempts by the government to force them to swap their business, it has emerged. At the end of last week, President Kim managed to get Hyundai, Samsung, LG, Daewoo and SK to sign a “letter of intent” in which they would exchange business units. Hyundai, Samsung and LG have been under pressure both internally and externally to swap their production of memories, as prices have slumped worldwide. President Kim has repeatedly asked these three to come to some deal, as South Korea has come under attack from both US and European manufacturers for alleged anti-dumping. In September, the European Union is meeting to discuss whether or not to impose swingeing duties on the South Korean DRAM manufacturers, following rumours of a complaint from Siemens, which shut down a memory fabrication plant in the UK earlier this month. But now, according to local English language newspaper the Korea Herald, the South Korean chaebols are likely to exchange only a handful of small business subsidiaries, rather than industries like DRAM, petrochemicals and the automotive industry, which President Kim and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want. The Herald said that the so-called “Big Five” were also pushing for changes to a law which could require them to make the changes if they do not voluntarily comply with the government’s requests. In response to a slight rise in 64Mbit PC 100 memories over the summer, LG said at the beginning of August that it would ramp up, rather than decrease production.
Intel has said that delays to the lower end members of its Pentium II family have arisen because of a deliberate shift to ramp up its Celeron, low end products. Sources close to Intel have now said that price changes slated for August 24th will now be delayed until 14 September. An Intel representative confirmed today that there was a shortage of PII/266 and PII/300 products but the reasons for the shortfall varied with the processors. He said that PII/266MHz parts used a .35 micron process which will not change, but that Intel was manufacturing a PII/300 using the .25 micron, although he would not be drawn on a date for when that processor will arrive. The 266MHz parts, he acknowledged, would eventually be phased out, with Intel ramping its family of Celeron processors to replace that processor. Next week, Intel will release high end Celeron processors using the Mendocino core. But Intel denied that there was any deliberate attempt to restrict supplies of the Pentium II/266MHz to give a boost to members of the Celeron family. “This is not a deliberate strategy,” he said. “Celeron will ramp to replace demand for the lower end members of the Pentium II family. This is how we see the market moving.” At the same time, Intel revealed that there is also a shortage of MMX parts, caused by problems with its packaging supplier. Although Intel has officially said that there will be no fresh wafer starts for the Pentium MMX processors, the representative said: “There’s an issue with the packaging supplier. We have plenty of wafers in stock.” Prices for PII/266s have risen on the spot market over the last week but the representative said that was due to demand in the market. Intel was maintaining the same OEM and distributor prices. Mark Davison, processor product manager at distributor Datrontech, confirmed there were serious delays at present. “Customers are screaming frantically for products. It’s been going on for a couple of weeks now. We have a demand ten times bigger than our supply. It’s hard to keep customers even moderately happy.” He said the demand was probably caused by colleges and universities spending money on lower end processors in the build up to the start of their Autumn terms. But the introduction of future processors by Intel, he thought, would automatically solve the demand problem.
Intel is set to change the ground rules on its architecture once more with the introduction of a modification to its slot design later on this year. An Intel representative confirmed today that it would move to a new slot design dubbed SECC 2. “This is the mark two version of slot one,” he said. The design is a cut down version of slot one, he said. “It’s the current slot one package with the backing plate taken off so the heat sink can be attached directly to the processor.” There are two reasons for the change to the Pentium II cartridge. Firstly, it will cut down the cost of the surrounding packaging, producing cost savings for Intel. But secondly, and possibly more importantly, it is a result of the faster process technology Intle is currently developing. As it moves from .25 micron technology to .18 micron and then to .13 micron, the heat issues become less and so the necessity of wrapping the chip with what one OEM described as a “waffle machine” will become unnecessary. Higher clock speeds are also likely to emerge from the introduction of SECC 2, but the move has no connection with the 370-pin Socket Intel is readying for next year. That is intended to bring the cost of manufacturing and production down, to enable Intel to compete the more successfully with its lower end rivals AMD, Cyrix and IDT/Centaur.