Pressure from its PC customers and other partners forced Intel to decide to implement synchronous memory with its up and coming Pentium 4 ("Willamette") microprocessor, it has emerged.
A source close to Intel in South East Asia, has shed light on the thinking -- reminiscent of Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus -- that caused Chipzilla to perform a complete u-turn and decide that Rambus alone would not cut it in the future.
Intel has now realised that it is virtually impossible for Rambus pricing to be affordable for the mass market in the next two years. "Intel is and always will be CPU company, and if the Pentium 4 is restricted to just Rambus, it won't sell," the source said. "Intel will implement SDRAM and the Pentium 4 using its own chipset, but both Micron and Via will also jump into that space very soon."
Rambus RIMMs require memory manufacturers to sign a royalty agreement which means a premium on every chip manufactured. Manufacturing RIMMs is also more exacting than producing synchronous memories, or their derivative, double data rate (DDR) memories.
The same source also shed light on Intel's plans for its 64-bit platform. The Merced IA-64 team is now working flat out on the McKinley platform, and while there may be some process difficulties with the Itanium, formerly known as Merced, those problems are far from insuperable.
Intel is also working on members of the Pentium III family using .13 micron cores, and will release processors with 200MHz front side buses (FSBs).
The Celeron 800MHz and beyond will still be restricted to 100MHz front side buses, because the cunning plan, already currently underway, is to move existing Pentium IIIs to 133MHz and then to 200MHz front side buses. Although there would be no problem moving Celeron cores to these high bus speeds, Intel does not wish to find itself in the position it did a year or two back, when people were buying Celerons and snubbing Pentium IIs, due to the negligible difference between the platforms.
Although Intel's plans for 200MHz front side buses for the Pentium III are now firmly in place, the reliable source added that it has further cunning plans to scupper AMD too. Unfortunately, he would not be drawn on what these might be. We'll find out, by hook or by crook. ®