Confirming speculation that has prevailed in research circles for weeks, Intel Corp. Wednesday said it will adopt double-data-rate SDRAM for the company's upcoming Pentium 4 microprocessor at the point at which DDR memory "becomes mainstream in the market."
Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, told a webcast briefing for financial analysts that "we will take advantage of DDR, after introducing a single-data-rate SDRAM chipset [for Pentium 4] next year." He didn't elaborate or indicate whether Intel would adopt third party DDR chipsets for Pentium 4 or introduce its own version.
Otellini reiterated Intel's long-held stance that Direct Rambus DRAM continues to be the company's memory of choice for the high-performance PC market segment, but "in the drive into multiple [market] price points, we find the need to have multiple memory solutions."
In the last month, Intel has been inching toward an official confirmation that it would introduce its own DDR-enabled desktop-PC chipset, and in a series of public statements has gradually increased its support for the interface.
However, Otellini stopped short of disclosing full details of Intel's memory roadmap. As reported earlier, a confidential Intel roadmap obtained by EBN from independent sources reveals that Intel in the third quarter next year will launch a single-data-rate SDRAM-enabled chipset known as Brookdale which will be followed by a device with DDR support for Intel's upcoming Northwood-class Pentium 4 mainstream desktop processor.
Additionally, a chipset known as Almador will be rolled out late in the second quarter of 2001 with both single- and double-data-rate SDRAM support for an upgraded Pentium III processor, according to the Intel roadmap. Intel's first Pentium 4, code-named Willamette, is set to be launched Nov. 20 for workstation and high-end desktop-PC applications and will only support Direct RDRAM.
Otellini said Intel is confident that "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 didn't address contractual issues related to its agreement with memory-interface designer Rambus Inc. that preclude Intel from fielding a DDR-enabled chipset until 2003.
The Intel executive did say, however, that the chip giant "has recaptured its [chipset] market share" and has ramped up production of its 815 family of SDRAM logic and memory controllers. Otellini said when the 815 was introduced early this year, it was production limited because Intel's fab capacity was devoted primarily to processor output.
"In Q3 we were able to get enough capacity to build a much higher volume of 815 chipsets," he said. "We have gained back the chipset market share we previously held."
Separately, Otellini gave the first hint of a totally new processor that Intel is developing solely for the notebook PC market. He didn't elaborate, but said it's the first processor the company has ever designed from scratch solely for mobile PCs.