WASHINGTON--The "Big Five" DRAM makers have joined Intel Corp. in an alliance to develop a next-generation DRAM that will succeed the upcoming Double Data Rate-2 memory architecture in the 2004-2005 timeframe, said industry sources today.
The DRAM partners include Samsung Electronics, Hyundai MicroElectronics, Micron Technology, Infineon Technologies, and the new NEC Hitachi Memory Inc. combine. These five companies account for more than 80% of global DRAM sales.
When asked about the alliance, an Intel spokesman in Santa Clara, Calif., only said that the firm "is always interested in developing new technologies and advanced semiconductors." He declined to make any specific comment on the "Next-Generation DRAM" alliance.
The DRAM companies also declined to comment, but privately some memory chip executives said the alliance had been formed under Intel's leadership.
Sources said Intel wants to get memory-maker participation early in the formative stages for a new DRAM architecture, which will succeed DDR-2. DRAMs based on the DDR-2 architecture are expected to hit the market in 2002-2003. Intel tried to dictate the choice of Direct Rambus DRAMs for the current new-generation of memory, but those plans suffered delays, which eventually caused the microprocessor giant to accept competing PC-133 SDRAMs and DDR SDRAMs promoted by chip makers and many computer manufacturers.
Intel is still looking at a packet data DRAM architecture for the next-generation memory architecture, according to sources at memory companies. Direct Rambus from Rambus Inc. uses a packet data design, which Intel likes because it offers a lower pin-count package. The PC-133 and DDR SDRAMs, by contrast, use a parallel data bus. This format does not require individual addressing of all memory cells as is the case with a packet data bus.
Some sources said all options are still open for the Next-Generation DRAM architecture. Memory officials are apparently happy that Intel has decided to work with other chip makers to develop specifications for future DRAMs. "This should eliminate a lot of the confusion and differences that surrounded Intel's unilateral decision to force Direct Rambus on the market," said one marketing vice president, who asked not to be identified.