October 1, 1999 6:30 PM PDT

Micron's ads will make hay of Rambus problems

One company's misery is another's delight--at least that's the case this week for Micron Electronics.

Micron is one of the few winners in the recent debacle involving Rambus memory, the Intel 820 chipset, and high-end PCs, and Micron plans to make big of it.

The Nampa, Idaho-based, PC maker had already decided earlier not to adopt Rambus just yet, instead going with a different chipset from Via Technologies. To let the world know about this choice, Micron will launch a major ad campaign next week in more than 25 newspapers, poking fun at rivals Dell Computer and Gateway, which are backing Rambus, that also takes a jab at Intel.

"Dell and Gateway missed the bus (the 133 MHz system, that is)," reads the ad, in reference to the 133-MHz system bus that Micron uses.

Intel on Monday cancelled plans to release the 820 chipset, an internal PC component that will eventually allow PC makers to adopt next-generation Rambus memory as well as give PCs a faster graphics pipeline, called AGP 4X. Intel learned of a glitch late in the testing process and decided to postpone the 820.

One of the key features of the 820 is that it will come with a 133-MHz system bus. The system bus serves as a conduit for data between memory and the processor. The faster the bus, the better the performance. Currently, most PCs come with a 100-MHz bus.

Months ago, Micron chose a chipset from Via for its latest computers. Via's product runs at 133 MHz and comes with the fast AGP 4X pipeline. In addition, Via's chipset works with standard memory, called SDRAM, that runs at 133 MHz or 100 MHz.

That decision unexpectedly paid off when Intel put the brakes on the 820 chipset. Although Intel has also announced a 133-MHz chipset similar to the Via product in the wake of the 820 delay, this offering does not offer all of the same advantages. Intel's chipset, for instance, does not include the fast AGP 4X pipeline, and it does not work with 133-MHz memory. Instead, it is geared to work with the slower 100-MHz SDRAM.

More importantly, PC makers haven't built systems around this chipset, as they were counting on the 820.

"We're getting a lot of people calling us and asking us what's going on. They know we're the only ones shipping the 133-MHz bus and 4X AGP, but they don't understand why the chipset is important," said Micron spokesperson Ken Knotts.

The ad is a bit unorthodox, because it also swipes Intel, something PC makers rarely do publicly.

"We spent a long time discussing about Intel, because we don't want to offend them by doing this. But Intel knows they can't ship the 820, and the ad is just too funny," Knotts said.

"We have the opportunity for the next month to poke fun at Dell and Gateway, and it was too irresistible not to do it," he said.

Depending on response to the ad, Micron will consider additional swipes at competitors, he said.

 

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