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Intel lets market decide fate of Rambus support

Intel executives have refused to say whether the chipmaker's future chipsets would support Rambus Dynamic RAM (RDRAM), the...

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Intel executives have refused to say whether the chipmaker's future chipsets would support Rambus Dynamic RAM (RDRAM), the high-speed memory interface technology.

This is a u-turn for the chip giant, which was once the leading advocate of Rambus. Intel chief executive Craig Barrett said the company will continue to manufacture existing chipsets for the PC and workstation markets that support RDRAM, but stopped short of saying future chipsets in this sector will support the beleaguered memory technology.

Chipsets are companion devices to central processors and handle much of the communication between the processor and the rest of the computer, including the memory chips.

"We are obviously supporting RDRAM today with our existing chipsets and the network processors continue to support RDRAM going forward and the rest of the products, you'll just have to wait until they are announced," said Barrett.

Intel's support of RDRAM began in 1999 when it launched a chipset for the Pentium III, although the company did not fully support the technology until the launch of the Pentium 4 processor.

When the new processor was launched, the only memory supported was RDRAM - a move that brought criticism from some quarters because of the high price of RDRAM compared to double data rate (DDR) DRAM, a rival high-speed technology being supported by most major memory makers.

Support for RDRAM alone lasted for nine months, before Intel began to support cheaper but slower SDRAM technology. In response to customer demands the company added support for DDR in December 2001.

The customers' role in Intel's decision was also highlighted by Barrett.

"We have always said that the winning DRAM technology would be the one customers want, the most economic in volume production, and RDRAM has not been the most successful in that respect."

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