Will Intel try to steer DRAMs again?
Is it déjà vu all over again? Intel Corp. may be trying to dictate the DRAM market again after a failed and embarrassing episode with Rambus Inc.
Intel attempted to push Rambus' high-speed memory architecture for "mainstream DRAMs" in PCs, but the technology failed to live up to its promises. While Rambus' RDRAM technology is used in higher-end PCs, the bulk of the personal computer market is embracing the rival double-data-rate (DDR) SDRAM technology.
Even Intel jumped on the DDR bandwagon by recently rolling out chip sets that support the 200- and 266-MHz versions of DDR SDRAM, called DDR-200 and DDR-266.
Now, however, Intel is mum about its next step in DDR. But sources believe that the chip giant will support the new 333-MHz DDR SDRAM (DDR-333) standard, but will bypass proposed DDR-400 products in favor of a next-generation DRAM architecture called DDR-II.
The company may be trying to kill DDR-400 before it gets off the ground-and for good reason, according to some analysts. Sources believe that archrival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. will support DDR-400 in the microprocessor space.
And Intel's rival in server chip sets and communications ICs--Broadcom Corp.--is also banking on DDR-400, sources said.
As usual, Intel declined to comment on its plans, saying it cannot talk about future products. "We are evaluating several technologies," said John Halbert, program manager for DRAM technology at Intel, at this week's JEDEX conference.
JEDEX was sponsored by the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association. (JEDEC was once known as the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council.)--M.L.
Philips 'mad scientist' insists
Intel can't control DDR standards
Does Intel Corp. wheel enough influence to control DRAM markets these days? An official with the title "Mad Scientist" at Philips Semiconductors says no.
During a panel discussion at the JEDEX conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this week, representatives from major chip makers debated whether or not the emerging 400-MHz version of double-data-rate (DDR) SDRAM would be ratified as a standard by JEDEC.
Micron Technology Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. are already pushing DDR-400 DRAMs in the marketplace, but Elpida Memory Inc., Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Infineon Technologies AG claim they have no plans to field these products.
While some believe that Intel will dictate the outcome of the DDR-400 SDRAM market, others argue that the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker does not control the universe or the DDR memory market.
"I am sure AMD and Via have something to say about DDR," said D.C. Sessions, whose title is "Mad Scientist" at Philips based in Tempe, Ariz., during a panel discussion at JEDEX.
The Philips engineer manager was referring to Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Via Technologies Inc., both of which are pushing hard on the DDR front with their respective chip products.--M.L.
Agilent, Advantest and Teradyne
could be gaining ATE momentum
It's time for the "No Spin Zone" in the automatic test equipment (ATE) business. After a horrible year in
2001, the ATE industry is looking up in 2002.
"There's a lot of development work going on in the ATE industry right now," said Howard Spinner, a long-time ATE watcher and president of MC Test Products. "We're busy," Spinner said.
And so far, a pair of ATE vendors appear to have the most momentum in the market right now--Advantest Corp. and Agilent Technologies Inc., according to some industry watchers. But Teradyne Inc. is also waking up from a deep sleep and downturn, according to analysts.
On the non-memory tester front, Agilent is grabbing the most orders in the market, Spinner politely said at a conference sponsored by Agilent this week. "I am seeing the most activity with Agilent's 93000 right now," he said, referring to Agilient's existing SoC tester.
San Jose-based MC Test developers "load-board" products for chip makers, which are inserted in the test heads in ATE systems in IC test. The company supports all ATE makers with its "load-board" products.
Agilent's rival, Teradyne, is also coming on strong, according to Spinner. Teradyne's "business dropped off last year, but it's coming back," he said.
Last week, Teradyne rolled out a new, low-cost tester, called the Integra Flex (see March 20 story). Sources believe Texas Instruments Inc. is evaluating the new tester from Teradyne and is close to ordering a batch of the systems.
The move could threaten LTX Corp., reportedly one of the incumbent ATE suppliers at TI, sources said.
On the memory front, meanwhile, Japan's Advantest is still the king of the hill. The company dominates the memory ATE business, but is now looking to bolster its chip-testing market share in logic, communications, and SoC devices as well.--M.L.