November 1999 Industry Update

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Chipset Update

As alluded to above, Intel has given notice to manufacturers that the i820 chipset is being re-launched on November 15. The major changes are the reduction of the number of RIMM slots from three down to two, and the elimination of a ‘2+2’ RIMM/DIMM design. This means boards can support only DIMM or RIMM, not both. The net effect, of course, will likely be a much slower DRDRAM ramp than originally planned.

An interesting rumor was passed this way, which indicates that Intel has a “next-gen DDR chipset called DDR (codenamed Amador). Product will support PC133 and DDR, with the product supporting a 133FSB version coming out in April, while faster 200Mhz FSB will be available 9/00 timeframe.” If true, it appears that the market gains by AMD and VIA have gotten Intel’s attention.

Intel also released information about their i840 chipset, which includes AGP 4x, ATA/66 and two Rambus channels (2 RIMMs each). They also revealed an optional companion chip which allows for 64-bit PCI devices, such as high speed SCSI devices and Gigabit Ethernet connections.

As mentioned in the last update, VIA has not been anxious to produce the KX133 chipset, apparently for two reasons. The first is that they saw a window of opportunity in releasing a 133MHz capable chipset with AGP 4x before Intel, and the second being an uncertainty about whether they want to continue strongly supporting AMD when they now have their own processor line in development. Though the KX133 was originally planned for October, it has been pushed back until ‘sometime’ in Q1 ’00.

Our sources have indicated that VIA would actually prefer to not make the KX133 at all, but pressure from FIC has kept it on the table. VIA has plans to aggressively improve their market position, and diverting resources to support the relatively small Athlon market is not attractive to them. One has to wonder, however, if the Intel lawsuit may change VIA’s attitude and cause them to put some resources on the chipset to get it out more quickly.

In line with plans to grab market share, the Apollo Pro133A chipset was the focus of VIA for the past few months, adding AGP 4x to their 133MHz capable chipset line as well as having slightly improved memory performance. Unfortunately, the Apollo Pro chipset line seems to lag behind the BX chipset when it comes to 32-bit I/O and video transfer rates, so it still is not the chipset of choice. On the other hand, continued shortages of BX chipsets and the delay of the i820 has apparently given VIA a large increase in orders, with a possible 4 million units shipping in November.

Discussions with AMD indictate that while a dual-Athlon chipset is on the roadmap, it will not be released until sometime in the first half of 2000. AMD also has plans for a DDR capable chipset, but the best estimate for it’s arrival is mid-year 2000. This lack of aggressiveness, as well as the limited support from VIA will likely keep the Athlon from making any major inroads in the market for at least the next three to six months.

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