Intel Corp. last week announced that it has joined forces with five memory chip makers -- which between them account for more than 80 percent of the global dynamic memory market -- to cooperatively develop the next generation of Advanced DRAM Technology (ADT).
The gang of six will assess all existing memory technology applications and co-develop a unified ADT that is expected to come to market sometime in 2003.
Noticeably absent from the alliance is longtime Intel memory partner Rambus.
Problems last November with delays in the Intel 820 chip set made it nearly impossible to utilize Rambus memory with the newly launched Intel Pentium III processors.
"The absence of Rambus ... by no means chips away at [Intel's] support of Rambus DRAM," an Intel representative said. "This new effort just makes sense for what's next on the Intel road map."
Up until now, reluctance on the part of memory chip makers to stock up on their products in the rapidly changing computer market has caused supply problems, and in some cases, price increases, according to Steve Cullen, an analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"The DRAM industry hasn't been producing the quantities Intel would like," Cullen said. "And using Rambus means paying royalties to Rambus. So if the DRAM guys can build their own synchronous DRAM, then no more royalties."
Cullen acknowledged, however, that royalties paid to Rambus for use of the technology may not be the reason for formation of the ADT alliance or for Rambus' absence from it.
"This alliance probably would have happened anyway, with or without Rambus," Cullen said. "What you would have seen instead would be the DRAM guys trying to develop what they thought the world needed, [with] Rambus doing the same thing and Intel trying to influence everybody."
"Intel is not taking the lead here," stressed one Intel representative. "Each of the [other] five companies in the alliance are working together, making research investments and sharing information."
But Cullen believes the Intel leadership role cannot be shaken off so easily.
"Intel should have a pretty good idea of where their processors are going, and therefore understand their future DRAM needs," Cullen said. "So the DRAM guys are definitely interested in what Intel is going to do."
The ADT gang of six
Intel attracted five partners for its Advanced DRAM Technology alliance.
* Hyundai MicroElecronics