January 5, 2000 9:50 AM PST

Ramping up Rambus memory

After devastating delays, production of Rambus memory will ramp up significantly this year, accounting for 16 percent of PC memory.

According to a study conducted by Nikkei Market Access, and reported today by Nikkei BP AsiaBizTech, memory makers will ship about 270 million 128MB/144 MB Rambus DRAM chips in 2000, with four companies accounting for 75 percent of production.

After several false starts, Rambus may finally be finding its footing. Intel's unexpected September delay of the 820 chipset, also known as Camino, caught many PC makers by surprise and nearly brought RDRAM production to a temporary halt.

The 820 chipset allows PCs to communicate with Rambus memory at a peak speed of 1.6 gigabytes per second, which is about double the rate for today's mainstream PCs. That transfer rate is expected to quadruple in revised chips due later this year.

Intel in November finally released Camino, enabling PC makers to ship new systems using RDRAM. But Intel processor delays have caused some Rambus-based system delivery problems. A Dell salesperson today quoted a 31-day build time on an 800-MHz Pentium III consumer system with RDRAM and 11 days for a 733-MHz model.

RDRAM may get its most significant boost when Sony begins shipping to Japan the PlayStation 2 in March and later this year in the United States.

Rambus CEO Geoff Tate, in an interview last month with CNET News.com, said he expects gaming devices, which need to squeeze the most performance possible out of a single memory chip, to be big consumers of RDRAM.

As reported by Nikkei BP AsiaBizTech, Nikkei Market Access forecasts first-quarter production of 24.5 million RDRAM chips, up from 3.4 million units the third quarter of 1999, and reaching 112 million by the last quarter of 2000.

Samsung, one of the four largest RDRAM producers, last month projected its monthly production would double to 2 million units by February and that Rambus memory would account for 20 percent of its memory revenue this year.

Together with NEC, Toshiba and Infineon Technologies AG, the four memory makers account for three-quarters of RDRAM production.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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