Motherboard makers look to phase out Rambus

Manufacturers still expect cheaper memory to relegate Rambus-based chipsets for Pentium 4 to a niche by the end of the year

Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers are anticipating a quick production ramp of new products for Intel's Pentium 4 PC chip that do not use Rambus' proprietary memory technology -- which could mean more bad news for Rambus.

Most motherboard manufacturers are expecting boards based on Intel's upcoming 845 chipset, code-named "Brookdale", to quickly account for most of their Pentium 4 motherboard output, relegating the Rambus-based 850 chipset to a niche.

For example, a product manager for Microstar International (MSI) told the Electronic Engineering Times that the 845 chipset will power at least 70 percent of Pentium 4 motherboards distributed in the fourth quarter. Other manufacturers said they expect to base 80 percent or more of their Pentium 4 motherboards on 845 by the end of this year.

One manager with Asustek said Intel will likely phase out the Rambus-based 850 chipset in the second half of next year.

The news does not bode well for Rambus, which has enjoyed a close relationship with Intel and whose memory products are, until the advent of the 845, the only ones that will work with Pentium 4. Earlier this week, Intel acknowledged that it is ending a discount programme to help sell Rambus-based Pentium 4 chips, a move that industry analysts say marks a disengagement from the memory startup.

The Brookdale chipset will at first only be compatible with standard SDRAM, which is not as fast as Direct Rambus DRAM (RDRAM), but is less expensive. Brookdale will later work with DDR SDRAM (Double Data Rate SDRAM), a high-speed memory that is based on open standards, and thus does not entail royalty payments. DDR is said to be slower than RDRAM, but is still slightly cheaper than the proprietary format.

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