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Intel swears off Rambus?

Scott Wasson
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The Intel-Rambus alliance may finally be coming unglued. Intel CEO Craig Barrett signaled the beginning of the end in an interview with the Financial Times. No, really:

“We made a big bet on Rambus and it did not work out,” Craig Barrett, Intel chief executive admitted. “In retrospect, it was a mistake to be dependent on a third party for a technology that gates your performance.”

Sounds to me like the Intel-Rambus marriage is on the rocks. In fact, Barrett went so far as to question Rambus’s business practices, most likely to try to unruffle the feathers of Intel’s many OEM partners. This one is dynamite:

Intel became disgruntled with the company’s strategy. “We hoped we were partners with a company that would concentrate on technology innovation rather than seeking to collect a toll from other companies,” Mr. Barrett said.

Rambus: toll collector on the info highway. No wonder everybody loves ’em so.

Of course, Barrett mentioned the fact Intel is contractually obligated to support Rambus’ DRDRAM in the Pentium 4. He didn’t back down from that. The question is, how soon will Intel move toward releasing products with support for DDR SDRAM? Will they just rely on Via’s chipsets from here to 2002? Or are Barrett’s comments the beginning of a bolder move from Intel? I’d like to see big changes from Intel, but I’m skeptical.

(Oh, and thanks to Ryu Connor for sending word about this one.)

Update: Looks like Intel may be serious. This report at TechWeb says Intel is looking “very seriously” at DDR SDRAM for its desktop products, not just servers:

“As we have said before, we are adopting DDR technology for servers, and exploring DDR on desktop,” said Paul Otellini, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group in Santa Clara, Calif. To a followup question from an analyst, Otellini added, “We’re looking very, very seriously at it.”

….

Otellini’s comments also potentially confirm a two-week-old report by Electronic Buyers’ News. Several major DRAM producers and module makers have told EBN that they are shipping unbuffered DIMMs to Intel in large enough quantities to validate a DDR chipset. A DDR chipset for servers, which the company has openly said it is developing, would use buffered DIMMs.

We may see DDR support sooner rather than later from Intel, after all. Could this move have something to do with the recent Pentium 4 delays?

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