SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A confidential roadmap obtained by EBN shows Intel Corp. dropping Direct Rambus DRAM from every computing platform but high-end workstations by mid-2001. This would appear to bear out recent comments by Intel president Craig Barrett that the exclusive deal to support the memory interface was "a mistake" (see Oct. 18 story).
According to the document, Intel will phase out the slow-selling Direct RDRAM-enabled 820 chip set in the first quarter of next year, while the yet-to-be-introduced Intel 850 chip set will be dropped in the middle of the third quarter. At that time, Intel's sole remaining Rambus chip set will be an enhanced 850 device code-named Tehama-E, which the company is rolling out for workstations and PCs costing more than $2,000.
The details of the roadmap are further evidence that the rupture between Intel and memory-design partner Rambus Inc. has widened, even to the point where Intel is planning to introduce a double-data-rate SDRAM-enabled chip set for desktop PCs. Industry sources said the companies are engaged in negotiations over Intel's demand that a clause barring it from fielding its own DDR chip set until 2003 be stricken from its licensing contract with Rambus.
Intel representatives declined to comment on either the talks or the roadmap, citing a policy against discussing unannounced products.
However, several DRAM and memory-module suppliers with knowledge of the company's development plans said Intel is designing its own DDR chip set, and, as previously reported by EBN, has bought a store of unbuffered DIMMS for testing and validation purposes.
Industry sources believe the chip sets, known as Almador and Brookdale, will be introduced in the middle of next year and will have both single-data-rate and DDR capability. Intel will time the activation of the DDR function according to market conditions, the sources said.
Intel's own chip set roadmap showed the Brookdale replacing the 850/Rambus chip set next year for high-end "Mainstream 3" PCs in the $1,500 to $2,000 price range.
Brookdale supports a mainstream desktop Pentium 4, code-named Northwood, which is expected to debut in the second quarter of next year.
The Almador chip set, which supports a 1.3-GHz Pentium III shrink code-named Tualatin, will appear at the end of the second quarter. Initially aimed at PCs in the $1,300-to-$1,700 range, Tualatin will be shifted to the $1,100 to $1,400 space late in the third quarter of 2001.
Its contractual issues with Rambus aside, when Intel chooses to activate the DDR capability of its chip sets, it will be more than six months behind rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which this week will introduce the 760 DDR chip set and upgraded 266-MHz processor bus to support its highest-performance Athlon processors (see today's story).
Meanwhile, third-party chip set vendors, including Acer Laboratories, Micron Technology, and Via Technologies, already have introduced their own DDR-enabled logic controllers for the Athlon central processor.
The same third-party manufacturers have unveiled DDR chip sets for the Pentium III, which should help Intel make up for the fact that it has yet to field a similar chip set of its own.
In fact, Via and Acer have said they will supply DDR chip sets for the Pentium 4, and were said to be seeking Intel's approval in meetings last week with Barrett in Taiwan.
Earlier this year, Intel approached Micron about the possibility of licensing that company's DDR-equipped Samurai chip set technology, a source close to Micron said. However, the memory-chip maker declined to give Intel an exclusive license because it also wanted to use the Samurai to support the Athlon, according to the source.