PC133 Gains Momentum

The question on everyones mind the past few months has been whether Intel will continue to insist that the future of DRAM is with the proprietary Rambus design, despite widespread industry resistance. On Thursday (4/22/99) Intel apparently answered that question at a financial analysts meeting when Intel executive Paul Otellini indicated there would be chipsets this year from Intel for non-Rambus synchronous DRAMs. Many in the industry are expecting the 810E chipset, scheduled to be released next quarter, will include support for PC-133 SDRAM.

To further strengthen the evidence that the PC133 ‘evolution’ is gaining momentium, Crucial Technology announced today (4/23/99) the availability of PC133 SDRAM modules at PC100 prices!. This announcement follows Enhance Memory Systems recent release of their HSDRAM modules, which are also PC133 compliant.

Over the past several months, many sources, including this site, have reported changing attitudes in the industry towards the Rambus design, such as last weeks “Rambus on the Ropes?” article. While there is little doubt that Intel will include support for DRDRAM at the high-end, their plans for widespread deployment across all market segments appears to be in serious jeopardy.

To PC133 and Beyond!

VIA Technology has been spearheading the PC133 effort along with about a dozen DRAM manufacturers. While there is not yet an official PC133 specification, enough of the details have been agreed upon for EMS, Micron and other manufacturers to begin making product available to end users. In addition to laying out the PC133 specification, this consortium has also been working on a PC266 specification for DDR SDRAM. Details of this work-in-progress, as well as links to numerous manufacturer references can be found on the VIA PC133 Resource Page.

Not only has VIA been working with memory manufacturers to define the PC133 spec, but news reports have indicated VIA has working samples of their Apollo Pro+ chipset with 133MHz FSB support. It is expected that an announcement will be made as soon as the PC133 specification has been solidified. This, combined with the competitive pricing by Crucial Technology, will almost assure rapid acceptance by motherboard manufacturers and users alike.

One question that remains is whether VIA and AMD will cooperate to provide 133MHz bus speeds on the Socket 7 platform. While AMD would not confirm whether this was in the works, they did stress that their plan is to compete directly against Intel across most market segments. It would seem to be almost necessary for AMD to push the K6-2 bus speeds to 133MHz in order to compete against the Celeron line, which has gained favor very quickly over the past 3 months. Intel has stated that they would prefer to segment the market by keeping the Celeron line at 100MHz, but AMD could force their hand by making 400MHz and 466MHz K6-2 processors available with a 133MHz bus, and with perhaps even a 533MHz offering later in the year.

All-in-all, 1999 is shaping up to be a very interesting year in the industry – and not because of new processors or I/O devices. After many years of taking a back seat to processor and chipset innovations, 1999 may be the year that memory technology drives the industry…

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