December 9, 1999 12:00 PM PST

Rambus aims for turnaround with reorg

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Rambus is trying to shake off a troubled past by retooling for the future.

The firm, which designs high-performance computer chip technology, today announced organizational changes that include a new president. The shifts come as it prepares to launch into new markets, namely communications and other chip-to-chip applications. Rambus also disclosed the 2000 road map for existing chip technologies.

Rambus' seemingly bright future darkened in September when Intel unexpectedly delayed its 820 chipset, also known as Camino. The delay, the second, stunned many PC makers who had been counting on Camino to enable next-generation Rambus memory.

Rambus' stock took a 19 percent dive following the news, and memory makers Samsung and NEC later temporarily halted production of Rambus DRAM memory chips.

With some of the pressure relieved by Intel's release of the 820 last month, Mountain View, Calif.-based Rambus today disclosed how it will forge ahead.

Dave Mooring, who had been running the computer and memory group, will assume responsibility for day-to-day operations as president. Rambus also promoted Subodh Toprani to senior vice president over a new ventures group. Both men will report to CEO Geoff Tate.

The promotions mean Mooring will handle Rambus' existing business while Toprani looks ahead to new markets. His job will getting non-PC companies to license Rambus' technology.

Rambus next year said it would significantly boost performance of its RDRAM memory to 1.6 GHz from 800 MHz and quadruple the transfer rate to 6.4 GB per second. The company and Rambus supporters claim RDRAM will improve overall PC performance because it will deliver data to the processor at a much faster rate.

RDRAM is generally used in PC desktop, workstation and server systems, as well as in the Sony PlayStation 2, available next year. Rambus does not make memory chips directly but licenses its technology to more than 30 semiconductor makers.

The company plans to extend those relationships and move its memory technology to communications, capitalizing on Internet demand. While short on details, Rambus said it was in negotiations with major communications systems companies, such as router and switch makers, and chipmakers for use of RDRAM in this burgeoning market.

Rambus also said it will move beyond memory into other chip-to-chip technologies, but would disclose no details.

"Rambus has made the point for quite some time now that their technology is not limited to DRAM," said Cahners In-Stat Group analyst Steve Cullen. "Basically, what they have is a way of passing signals at high speed between two chips. The networking applications they're looking at is a good place to look into next, where high speed is becoming more and more problem."

One problem facing communications and networking companies is the large number of pins on some chips. "The approach of Rambus is to make a smaller number of pins go faster," Cullen said.

 

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