The Founding of an Empire?

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The Company People Love To Hate

Rambus has become one of those companies that people either love or hate. Discussions in technical newsgroups and message boards have become almost as fervent as the Mac vs. PC discussions of yore. Recent news that both Toshiba and Hitachi have signed licensing agreements for DDR and SDRAM patent claims by Rambus has pushed the issue to the forefront of the news, and brought out the most fanatical on both sides.

Some of the most militant in the pro-Rambus camp have been proclaiming that DDR and SDRAM are now dead, and DRDRAM will take over the market in short order. Those opposed to Rambus (either the memory or the company) are gnashing their teeth and proclaiming the end of an industry. Both of these outcomes are obviously pretty unlikely, as other factors are much more important in determining market share and memory manufacturers are not going to stop designing new products. Unfortunately, most of the early analyses seem to be mixing a number of issues together, further confusing the entire discussion.

Personally, I believe that there are several different, but somewhat related, issues. The first issue has to do with whether Rambus actually owns the patents that they claim. This is a highly charged issue in the industry, mostly for economic reasons. The second issue has to do with the long-term effect on the industry if Rambus succeeds in convincing manufacturers (or the courts) that they do indeed hold these patents. Finally, the issue that most consumers are concerned about is whether this means the end of DDR and alternative memory architectures.

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