Intel launched its first product to use the Rambus memory architecture (Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory) last week.
Yet the debate over the future of PC memory architecture is casting doubt over the future of Rambus, and over Intel's overall domination of the PC market.
Intel has met with significant resistance from PC makers in establishing Rambus as the de facto memory model in PCs. When the company recently announced its 820 chip, less than the normal standing-room-only crowd of PC makers was saluting its RDRAM capabilities.
"Initially, when people started talking about RDRAM, we thought it was going to be a radical shift towards the new technology," said Scott Edwards, manager of Deskpro marketing at Compaq. "As time has progressed, however, you are not going to see that with things like PC133 [SDRAM]."
Edwards is referring to a low-cost competitor to RDRAM that has garnered the support of IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq. While most PC OEMs will offer both technologies to customers, RDRAM will cost twice as much as SDRAM and is currently experiencing crippling supply constraints and disappointing performance results, according to Edwards. Meanwhile, PC makers are forced to design systems that incorporate both.
And given Intel's dispute with PC makers over future I/O (input/output) technologies and current chasms on memory standards, this one unified market is growing further apart on some critical issues.
Some PC vendors have grown to resent the power that Intel has held over decision-making and brand marketing in the PC business.