August 2000 Industry Update

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Chipset Update

VIA Chipsets

According to Richard Brown, Director of Marketing in Taiwan, VIA will deliver “a minimum of 42 million chipsets to the market this year — probably substantially more”. Assuming the total number of PC system shipped reaches the forecast of 130 million, this would give VIA at least a 30% market share for the entire year, possibly over 40%.

Though VIA is generally seen as a strong supporter of AMD processors, with their Super Socket 7, Slot A and Socket A chipsets, the main reason for their huge gain in market share over the past year is due to the support of Pentium II/III processors. Now that Intel has granted a full license for VIA to product P6 chipsets, some have speculated that VIA may now all but abandon AMD.

The relatively slow ramp of the KX133 and subsequent Tbird incompatibility issue has helped to create this perception. With the slow introduction of motherboards to support the Socket A platform, there has been a lot of concern regarding VIAs plans in this area.

In fact, it appears that planned production numbers for the KT133 chipset will be sufficient to cover all of the planned production of Athlon processors for both Q3 and most of those for Q4. According to unofficial sources, volume will ramp up to as many as 2 million chipsets per month by Q4. The KM133 (integrated Savage4 3D chipset) is scheduled to ship in Q4, which should provide additional support and a low-end solution for the Duron processors.

VIA continues to ramp production and reportedly contracted with Hyundai for additional capacity of about 10K wafers per month – right about the time that the Intel licensing agreement was made. The speculation here is that Intel has essentially handed a percentage of the chipset market to VIA and the additional capacity will be needed in the near future.

Assuming this is true, VIA will own at least 90% of the Athlon chipet market, and at least 50% of the P6 chipset market by the end of the year. There is currently no information available regarding any possible licensing for P7 chipsets, though VIA has indicated that they are proceeding with that end in mind.

VIA is sampling their DDR capable chipset for Intel processors later this month, and expect to be in volume production by the end of the year. A DDR chipset for AMD processors will likely come out several months later, which means product appears to be unlikely until Q1 2001.

Intel Chipsets

The i815 chipset has been a rousing success, according to several motherboard manufacturers and product resellers I have spoken with. PC133 support, excellent performance and the ability to disable the on-board video to add a high-end graphics card has made it a very popular all-around chipset. This is very good news for the Intel chipset group, since the i820 is all but dead, and the i810 series has met with only limited success.

Intel has indicated that the upcoming Tehama chipset, which will support the P4 processor, may be reworked to include support for SDRAM. The reason given is that DRDRAM modules continue to be more than twice the price of equivalently sized PC133 SDRAM modules, limiting the marketability of the platform. Whether this occurs will depend upon whether prices continue to drop through Q4 to reach price parity with SDRAM.

One interesting tidbit that passed this way is that Intel is in discussions with Micron to license their Samurai chipset for use on Intel motherboards. The reasoning here is that Intel is contractually unable to support DDR SDRAM on their own chipsets, so their only legal way of getting around this would be to license a third party chipset that has the support. Micron spokespersons indicated that they are unable to comment on this, though they did not actually deny it.

Other Chipsets

ALi released their KA266-R chipset for the Athlon a few weeks ago, which includes DDR support. At least one motherboard manufacturer has already made an announcement regarding a product based upon this chipset. Unfortunately, there are only a few manufacturers that seem to be willing to use ALi chipsets, with most of those being smaller volume manufactuers.

AMD is reportedly very close to releasing their 760 chipset, which adds DDR support and some other features to the 750 chipset. Spokespersons from Micron claimed that they believe DDR support for AMD processors in much farther along than is the case for Intel processors, and indicated a lot of enthusiasm for the AMD 760 chipset. The probable timeframe for products using this chipset is October/November.

In the February Update, I mentioned that the AMD 770 chipset would be released in Q4, which would be intended to be used with the Mustang, and would support DDR, AGP 4x and 2-way multiprocessing. More recently, there has been some talk of an AMD 760MP, but it isn’t clear whether it is simply the AMD 770 that has been renamed or a new chipset.

SiS is trying to stay in the ballgame with product announcements (i.e., SiS730S, for Athlon), however production continues to be an issue at this time. The expectation from most manufacturers is that product volume will not be a reality until after the first of the year.

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