Intel Corp. will pre-launch its SDRAM-enabled Almador core-logic chipset in the second quarter of 2001 to support a new Pentium III processor known as Coppermine-T that was only lately added to the company's product road map, industry sources said last week.
The Almador will support the tighter voltage-termination requirements of the new Coppermine derivative, and will also enable Intel to seed the market with an SDRAM-enabled chipset that will later be used to support the Pentium 4, the sources said.
The move is the latest indication that Intel's support for single-data-rate and double-data-rate SDRAM is continuing even as the company promotes Direct Rambus DRAM for the upper end of the PC market. In fact, Intel last week confirmed that it will use DDR SDRAM chipsets to support the Pentium 4 in mainstream desktop PCs, while forging ahead with plans to use Direct RDRAM in workstation and high-end PCs.
"We will take advantage of DDR [for the Pentium 4] as soon as it becomes mainstream," Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, told financial analysts. Otellini didn't indicate whether Intel plans to use third-party DDR chipsets or introduce its own version.
Sources said the company is developing an SDRAM chipset, called Brookdale, for the mainstream desktop Pentium 4. But while the device will include both single-data-rate and DDR capability, early versions will ship with the DDR function disabled. Industry sources also believe Almador will support both single-data-rate and DDR memory, though again with the DDR function turned off.
The initial Almador chipset will support the Coppermine-T's 1.2-V termination voltage, which Intel has included to lower power consumption and increase performance. The 1.3-GHz Tualatin-class Pentium III, which is slated to launch in mid-2001, will further avail itself of a performance-enhancing differential clock feature that will be included in the Almador.
When reached, Intel refused to comment on its strategy, citing a policy against discussing unannounced products. Otellini also declined to disclose details of Intel's memory road map.
What is known, however, is that the initial Willamette-class Pentium 4 processor being unveiled Nov. 20 for the workstation and high-end desktop market will only use Direct RDRAM. Otellini said Intel has made sure "there is sufficient inventory, production capacity, and supplier commitment that the memory ramp will match our processor ramp. Direct Rambus won't be a ramp limiter."
Otellini added that Intel "has recaptured its market share" in chipsets by ramping production of its 815 family of SDRAM logic and memory controllers. He said when the 815 was introduced early this year, its production was limited because Intel was devoting fab capacity primarily for processor output. "In [the third quarter], we were able to get enough capacity to build a much higher volume of 815 chipsets. We have gained back the chipset market share that we previously held," he said.
Separately, Otellini gave the first hint of a new processor that Intel is developing solely for the notebook-PC market. He didn't elaborate, but said it is the first processor the company has designed from scratch solely for mobile PCs.