During June, there was some speculation that Intel may have become the #2 chipset maker in the world, after VIA Technologies. Interestingly, just last week Intel settled their lawsuit against VIA by granting a full license for VIA to produce P5 and P6 chipsets, for which VIA will pay a lump sum and ongoing royalty payments. One source has indicated that Intel has informed their suppliers that they are ‘strategically’ giving up market share, presumably to focus upon their primary product line (microprocessors), while still receiving revenues for chipsets from the royalties paid by VIA.
The i815 chipset was officially released in June, however the pricing is quite high at $60 per chipset. Compare that with the initial price of $35 for the i820 chipset, and approximately $45 for the VIA Apollo Pro133 chipsets. Motherboard manufacturers believe that the i815 has good potential, however current pricing has them wondering if it can gain any significant market share. In addition, Intel has indicated that they can only supply 1 million chipset per month to Taiwanese manufacturers, causing some distress.
The latest chipset roadmap, dated June 9, 2000 contains few surprises but it does validate some of what has been reported here in the past few months. Intel has been ‘segmenting’ the market for a few years, breaking it into four major categories (Desktop, Server, Workstation and Mobile), with a number of segments within each category. The Desktop category is obviously the most important in terms of market share and the one that is normally discussed in this column. The Server category is becoming much more important, however, as more and more businesses move to the Internet.
In the desktop arena Intel defines the segments as ‘value’ (systems below $1000), ‘mainstream’ (systems between $1000 and $2000) and ‘performance’ (above $2000). In this category, the i810 and i440BX chipsets will be phased out by the end of Q3. The i810E will be targeted towards the very low end through the end of the year, until Timna is finally released. The i815 is intended for the very high-end value market as well as the low-end mainstream market for the next year. Though the i820 has been all but tossed by most motherboard manufacturers and OEMs, Intel still shows the i820/i820E chipsets as being their primary mainstream system chipset, with the Tehama (i850) filling the performance segment through 2000 and into the first two quarters of 2001. In Q3 2001, the roadmap shows that the Tulloch will replace the i820/i850 while the Almador will replace the i815 in the performance/mainstream segments.
The Server category split between Intel and Third-party chipsets. In the Dual Processor segment, the i440GX shares space with an unnamed third party chipset, until Q1 ’01, where only third party chipsets are shown. In the 4-way, 8-way and greater segments, the i450NX and i460GX share space with third party chipsets, until Q4 ’01 where the i870 becomes the primary chipset.
Mobile chipsets will continue to be the i440ZX and i440MX (value segment), along with the i440BX (mainstream segment) for the next year. Solano-2 (i815) should appear at the beginning of the year for mobile systems, with the Almador going mobile at introduction in Q3 ’01.
The Workstation category sits between the Desktop and Server categories, and shares chipsets with them. At the low end (entry segment), the i820 chipset is replaced by the i850 in Q1 ’01. In the performance segment, the i820/i840 chipsets are replaced by the Colusa chipset in Q1 ’01. At the very high end, the i460GX takes over in Q3 ’00, later to be replaced by the i870 in Q4 ’01.
In addition to the July 6 settlement agreement between VIA and Intel for the P5 and P6 chipsets, there is a rumor that VIA is designing a P7 chipset, and may be seeking a license to manufacture that as well. Industry experts are estimating that Taiwanese manufacturers will produce at least 22M Intel chipsets in the 2nd half of 2000 (over 3.5M per month), with the majority being made by VIA.
The Apollo Pro133 chipset (693A) is still very popular, outselling the more recent Pro133A (694x) chipset by a margin of 4-to-1 according to some motherboard manufacturers. Overall, most motherboard manufacturers are indicating that VIA based boards comprise from 50% to 70% of their shipments.
While VIA had hoped for a flawless introduction of the KT133 chipset (Socket A), the first run had some problems with memory timings when 3 DIMM slots were populated. This has been corrected in their second run, but has also caused some manufacturers to hold back on motherboard production. AMD had reportedly requested 500K chipset for June, but there are reports that the number was more likely 300K or less. July estimates indicate that VIA will again shoot for 500K units shipped.
Manufacturers are reporting that chipset prices are beginning to rise as VIA appears to have begun taking advantage of their market position. No longer having to fight for market share and market recognition, prices have stabilized and may even begin to rise slightly. In fact, VIA has indicated that they are able to ship virtually every chipset produced and still have order backlogs. Recently, it was reported that VIA purchased some capacity from Hyundai to help meet demand.
In response to the announcements made by Rambus regarding the Toshiba and Hitachi settlements, VIA reiterated support for DDR. A spokesperson for VIA indicated that efforts have been redoubled on the KX266 chipset, and they believe it might be ready for a late Q3 release.
Despite recent news reports on some ‘enthusiast’ sites that indicate Micron will be entering the chipset market, a spokesperson for Micron told me on July 7 that they currently have absolutely no plans to do this. In fact, when asked about a recent article on this subject published on another site, which seemed to imply they were ready to enter the chipset market, the Micron spokesperson said that the author had “obviously not spoken with anyone at Micron”
On the other hand, she indicated that Micron is ready to supply DDR SDRAM chips and modules, with an unbuffered DDR module scheduled to be announced this month. Micron believes that Q4 will see volume shipments of DDR chipsets from AMD, VIA and ALi, and they intend to be able to supply the market with all the DDR SDRAM it wants.
As mentioned last month, ALi is sampling DDR chipsets for both P6 and K7 platforms, with plans to ship in volume by the end of Q3. Unfortunately, several motherboard manufacturers have indicated they are not likely to use ALi chipsets due to unresolved problems with past chipsets. It does not appear likely that many ALi based boards will be available unless the chipset proves to be very solid.
Though SiS has a very good reputation, and have vowed support for DDR capable K7 chipsets, they have only recently brought up their own fab. A new process generally takes many months to iron out all of the bugs, so most industry experts are not expecting anything of substance from SiS until Q1 ’01.
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