The following is the conclusion of yesterday's column on the Advanced DRAM Technology (ADT) alliance.
With DDR-II specs in the home stretch, JEDEC is now ready to sire the later generation DDR-III. That might be a more fitting task for ADT, since thrashing out all the loose ends of a new technology in advance by the major players makes it a lot easier to draft a JEDEC spec. But DDT-III is a chip for 2005-6 -- a lifetime away in the DRAM aging cycle.
For the present, ADT has probably been a success on one score. It has kept Intel and the big DRAM suppliers talking to each other, if sometimes guardedly. And the two wary sides may be more interested in present DRAM strategy than in any futuristic memory concoctions.
Already the diverse agendas of Intel and DRAM suppliers have surfaced at ADT. The original alliance of six members -- Elpida, Intel, Infineon, Hynix Semiconductor, Micron Technology and Samsung Electronics -- voted to expand the club.
There was no dispute on bringing in new non-voting associate members - OEMs, motherboard makers, packaging and chip parts suppliers. Although inputs from associates would be solicited, the actual ADT chip would still be tightly controlled by the inside Group of Six. Some cynics speculated the associates would be brought aboard more to be lobbied and brain-washed than to have any real voice in the ADT chip.
But then the question arose of expanding ADT to include new voting members. The other big microprocessor maker, Intel archrival Advanced Micro Devices immediately came to mind. And why not Transmeta, VIA Technologies, Sun Microsystems with UltraSparc, MIPS, IBM and Motorola?
And as far as that goes, why not Rambus Inc., if that DRAM designer agreed to the same membership terms as other members? The proprietary design house might balk, but then stranger things have happened in the bizarre DRAM universe.
But none of the other processor makers or Rambus have been invited so far to join ADT as voting members, despite the big membership push for non-voting participants. That raises a serious antitrust question. If ADT ever becomes something more than a debating society and starts zeroing in on a real newgeneration DRAM design, a private club of Intel as sole MPU member and five DRAM suppliers, should raise a red flag.
For now, leery DRAM producers are trying to unravel even more immediate Intel puzzles on memory. Come August or September Intel will have Pentium 4 chipsets supporting either Direct RDRAM or SDRAM -- and DDR at some time after that.
With Intel continuing to proclaim Direct Rambus is its preferred memory solution, what game is being played here? And will Intel license its gadfly rival Via Technologies to make a Pentium 4 DDR chipset, as it has other Taiwan third party vendors? Or does that even matter, with the truculent Via claiming it will introduce its Pentium 4 DDR chipset with or without Intel's sanction?
OEM customers are certainly in the best position in all the DRAM quandary, present and future. Nothing in the present confusion indicates that chip makers will do anything more than continue to over-produce whatever DRAM designs the
Jack Robertson is Editor-At-Large for EBN. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org