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Intel pushes RDRAMs with rebates

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CIOL Bureau
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Left with few alternatives, Intel once again climbed on the Rambus bandwagon

with the announcement that the chipmaker will give computer makers rebates if

they use RDRAM memory chips in Pentium 4 computers. Earlier this summer, Intel

indicated it was moving away from its support for the new high-speed memories.

Rambus meanwhile, filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission

against Hyundai.

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With the rebate, Intel hopes to accomplish two key objectives: push the

adoption of high-speed memory and give computer makers a strong financial

incentive to make computers with Intel P4 processors rather than competing with

the Athlon chips from AMD. By reducing the gap between the cost of regular DRAMs

and RDRAM chips, Intel expects that computer makers are more likely to opt for

an Intel-based Pentium 4 with RDRAM than an Athlon system with cheaper DRAMs.

Intel said its plans to issue rebates to PC makers who use the Rambus chips

in Pentium 4 computers. "We are planning a program to help with the initial

ramp of the Pentium 4 to ensure there's memory available to enable manufacturers

to hit their price points," said Intel spokesman Mike Sullivan.

To date, computer makers have been reluctant to adopt RDRAMs, which are more

expensive than regular DRAMs. But RDRAMs offer a vastly higher performance in

the exchange of data between the microprocessor and the memory. High-end

processors cannot achieve the overall system performance improvement using the

133 MHz rate at which traditional DRAMs transmit data.

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Earlier this year, Intel reduced its commitment to Rambus technology when

slow demand for RDRAMs kept their production cost too high for mass adoption.

Intel said it would support other technologies for increasing the bus speed. But

with much of Intel’s near-term success riding on the Pentium 4, which will run

at 1.4 GHz or faster, it desperately needs computer makers to standardize on

high-speed memories and RDRAMs are the only available option. To achieve the

performance improvements customers are expecting in a P4 system, Intel is

literally forced to push RDRAMs in the absence of a viable short-term

alternative. Initial P4 computers will be available at around $2,400, enough for

system houses to absorb the cost of the RDRAMs. To make up for the cost

difference, Intel said it will offer rebates to computer makers who use RDRAMs.

Rambus meanwhile, announced it has asked the US International Trade

Commission (ITC) to conduct an investigation whether Korea’s Hyundai is

importing DRAM and SRAM memory chips into the United States that allegedly

incorporate Rambus’ patented technology. Rambus also filed similar patent

infringement lawsuits in Germany and France against Hyundai. Rambus is seeking

injunctions to halt the sale of the chips.

A trial in Germany is anticipated to start in February 2001, while a French

court this week ordered the seizure of samples of Hyundai SDRAM and DDR SDRAM

memory devices as it starts its investigation into Hyundai's infringing

activities.

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"Intellectual Property is our business and we will not hesitate to

protect our IP when it is being used without a license," said Rambus chief

executive officer Geoff Tate.

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