Intel Twister set to wreak PC havoc
It's bigger than a cat amongst the pigeons
The news that Intel has decided to take action against Via over its PC-133 chipset strategy will have serious repercussions for the entire PC industry. (Story: Intel busts Via over PC-133, this time it's personal) The twister has touched ground and will devastate vast tracts of engineering effort amongst third party players.
At Computex, earlier this month, the vast majority of Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers announced their support for the PC-133 standard. And the island's largest memory manufacturer, Mosel-Vitelic, also announced it would support PC-133, at the same time making it clear there were problems with Direct Rambus.
Although Via is only one of several chipset manufacturers to support PC-133, the 800-strong company took a leading role in promoting the standard. Back in February, it announced the formation of an industry effort to push PC-133, with senior executives saying at the time that yield and performance problems with Direct Rambus would slow down the PC industry in general.
The other players in PC-133 are SiS, Opti and Ali, and if Intel's CEO is to be believed, Intel itself. But Intel's legal action will have a far wider effect than just on Via, or any of these other players. The Taiwanese motherboard industry is the engine of the PC market. Because most of the larger companies showed support for PC-133, this means that the time they have spent producing these motherboard solutions could well have been wasted.
Sources close to one of the largest motherboard manufacturers told us at the beginning of the month that Intel was using its not inconsiderable muscle to prevent Via from announcing its solution until it had produced its own. The latest move from Intel could therefore be seen as a cynical action designed to give the chip giant leverage, once more, over much of the entire PC industry.
At a Rambus "Plugfest" held a little later in the month, HP, IBM and Compaq all expressed unease over Direct Rambus performance. Intel has invested millions in the new memory standard and taken equity stakes in Micron and Samsung to push that standard forward. It also has an equity stake in Rambus itself, so stands to benefit from any royalties that Direct Rambus may generate. ®