Like mystery stories? Then delve into the enigma of the Advanced DRAM Technology (ADT) alliance of Intel Corp. and five of the biggest memory chip producers.
OEMs basking in the current give-away DRAM pricing may well ask, "Why bother?" ADT by its own charter isn't supposed to bring forth the Holy Grail of DRAMs until 2003-4. In the crazy flip-flop world of memory chips, that is a half dozen cycles away of boom-and-bust glut or shortage.
But the intrigue and politics now swirling inside ADT can be a tipoff to how Intel and the memory suppliers are circling each other in today's screwy DRAM business. That current market intelligence may be far more valuable to everyone than trying to guess what visionary DRAM the ADT alliance may conjure up. If indeed any.
ADT is a mating dance of porcupines. Spawned two years ago in the unraveling of Intel's dictate of Direct Rambus memory, the leery memory makers were content to at last get Intel back into DRAM war planning room.
For its part, Intel, surprised by the chip makers that pushed double data rate (DDR) memory on their own when stiffed by Intel, decided "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Or at least keep an eye on them from the inside.
But despite countless brainstorming sessions, ADT has yet to reach consensus on a viable new design. The group reportedly can't agree on whether it wants to optimize on memory for handheld devices, PCs, or Buck Rogers products that are still a glint in the marketers' eyes.
Meanwhile, the successor DDR-II memory chip is already on its way. The industry JEDEC standards body has just approved the preliminary DDR-II spec. And chip firms may have the first silicon in labs sometime next year.
DDR-II initial production could be as early as 2003 -- about the same time frame that ADT was eyeing for its DRAM design. Since all the six ADT members are participants in the DDR-II endeavor, one has to wonder about the split approach to next generation DRAMs.
In any event, it appears the Big Five DRAM producers are moving ahead on DDR-II, while ADT convulsions drone on like a Congressional caucus. Put your money on DDR-II.
Jack Robertson is Editor-at-Large for EBN. Email comments to email@example.com