Intel Corp. late tomorrow is expected to detail its plans to support 133-MHz SDRAM as an interim memory, while the high-speed Direct Rambus DRAM favored by the company ramps up in production.
The microprocessor giant will address the issue during a presentation scheduled for tomorrow at the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, Calif. An Intel spokesman declined to reveal the contents of the presentation, and urged attendees to "wait and see what we have to say on 133-MHz SDRAMs."
DRAM chip makers which have been briefed by the company, however, said the first Intel chipsets to support 133-MHz memory will be available at the end of the first quarter next year. Most welcomed Intel's belated 133-MHz endorsement as helping to boost sales of the new SDRAM chips, although Intel is said to be reluctant to go all the way in supporting the interface specification as is.
Instead, sources indicate that Intel will seek slightly tighter interface timing parameters than those spelled out in the existing PC133 spec. Some memory producers said this could be a strategic move by Intel to hold back a widespread rush to PC133 and rival chipsets this fall, until the company can bring its own chipsets to market next year.
Memory-chip makers said so far Intel has been secretive in detailing the precise specs it will include as a condition to supporting the faster SDRAM. Generally, they believed the new requirements will refer to yield issues associated with 133-MHz SDRAM binout testing. Most said the Intel specs won't require a chip redesign.
Suppliers were mixed on whether a unique set of 133-MHz interface specs would cause PC makers to hold back orders until the Intel chipset is ready next year. Independent third-party chipset makers in Taiwan, like Via Technologies, Acer Laboratories, and Silicon Integrated Systems, already have a large share of the value-end PC chipset market, and OEM customers aren't likely to hold back waiting on Intel, several DRAM makers said.
Intel is expected to add the new 133-MHz memory interface to the upcoming Solano chipset which will be rolled out next year as an advanced version of the Intel 810e, which will also have a 133-MHz front side bus to the processor. Such a device would allow Intel to compete with independent chipset rivals in the sub-$800 PC market segment, according to observers.
Despite its last-minute concession to OEM supporters of the 133-MHz memory interface, Intel remains firmly committed to Direct RDRAM. Several sessions at the developers forum were devoted to designing in the Rambus chips as well as to advanced applications running across the new interface.
Jay Bell, technology fellow at Dell Computer Corp., said the company will be showing a desktop PC using Direct RDRAM in late September when the new memory and Intel's Camino chipset are introduced.