Intel to phase out Rambus discounts

Direct Rambus DRAM is now cheap enough that Intel no longer has to subsidise sales, but rival DDR is still gaining ground

Intel is to phase out its discount programme for Rambus memory, the company has confirmed, saying that the price premium for Direct Rambus DRAM is now low enough that discounts are no longer needed.

At the same time, there are signs that DDR DRAM (double data rate DRAM) memory is gaining on RDRAM in sales.

While Rambus' memory is based on a proprietary standard that entails royalty payments, DDR memory was designed as an open standard, making it less expensive to manufacture because no licence is involved. Both are competing in the market for next-generation memory, which aims to eliminate the memory-speed bottleneck in ever-faster PCs.

Intel told journalists at the Platform 2001 Conference in San Jose this week that it will end its practice of bundling discounted Rambus memory with the latest Pentium 4 processor. Lower RDRAM prices and Intel's own steep price cuts on Pentium 4 have made the programme redundant, the company said.

So far, Pentium 4 has only worked with Rambus memory, so it was to Intel's advantage to keep prices as low as possible. Intel is, however, set to release the Brookdale 845 chipset, which will join Pentium 4 with standard SDRAM memory.

Intel says that Rambus memory prices are so low that there is no appreciable price premium over DDR.

At the same conference, Elpida Memory -- a joint venture of Hitachi and NEC -- said it expects sales of DDR to equal those of Rambus memory by the end of the year, and to surpass RDRAM in the first half of next year. By the second half of 2002, DDR shipments could exceed those of SDRAM, the company told journalists.

The firm said that Rambus and DDR memories both make up about 15 percent of total DRAM sales.

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