April 2000 Industry Update

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DRAM Update


DDR gets the top spot this week as VIA has just officially announced their intention to provide 266MHz DDR support in ‘future products’. Of course, this isn’t really news, but it does make it official. Those in the industry are targeting volume shipments sometime in Q4, with samples being available around the June timeframe. It is possible that some reference boards/chipsets may be available sooner than that, but this remains to be seen.

On a related note, a DDR capable motherboard was posted this week at http://www.watch.impress.co.jp/akiba/hotline/20000408/newitem.html#8. Though it is listed as a Dual Slot 1 board, according to sources close to Micron it is probably a Dual Slot 2 board. Rumor has it that Micron Technologies had developed some motherboards for Micron Electronics, and at least one high-end OEM has been using them as well. It is likely that there were some ‘overstocks’ and they were offloaded into the gray market. In other words, don’t expect to see any in your local store…

Rambus DRAM

Rambus prices remain high, availability remains low and the future still appears clouded, though you wouldn’t have known it from the stock price early in March. The spokesperson from the Intel chipset group indicated that Intel is hoping that prices drop by at least 30% by Q3, and that they expect all of the major manufacturers to be manufacturing parts.

Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten to tell all of the manufacturers about this, because their plans don’t appear to have changed much over the past month. Samsung is still the only source for DRDRAM chips, with NEC producing a very limited quantity. Though Infineon has been promising to begin production for months, there are still no parts to speak of coming from them. Hyundai has indicated that they intend to ramp production, but so far nothing really concrete. Hitachi, well…

In an interesting development, Rambus followed up their lawsuit against Hitachi by requesting that all SDRAM parts by the company be restricted from importation into the U.S. Hitachi responded by claiming that Rambus is using predatory tactics, and that their patent claims are questionable, citing previous works by themselves and by JEDEC (which Rambus was a part of at one time). While nothing is ever certain in a courtroom, some who are familiar with these things consider the Rambus suit to be weak, and likely to be thrown out.

One thing is certain, however… Rambus has truly angered the memory industry by using these tactics. Though NEC has been looked at as the next major supplier of DRDRAM, they are in the process of merging with Hitachi, and the lawsuit could be creating some tension. An NEC spokesperson refused to comment on the issue at this time. Most other manufacturers are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, not wanting to get on Rambus’ bad side should the judgement be in Rambus’ favor – however, sources say they are privately hoping Rambus fails miserably.

DRAM Prices

DRAM prices rose slightly in Asia during the month of March, settling at around $6.00 per 64Mb chip. It appears that manufacturers decided to ‘hold the line’ early in the month, and increased demand allowed them to raise prices to a little bit more comfortable level. Even at these prices, however, Micron is probably the only manufacturer making a profit.

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