Originally Published: Tuesday, 24 October 2000 Author: Brian Richardson
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Getting Hitched

Is it too late for counseling? How long until we see Intel screaming accusations at Rambus on Jerry Springer? Our hardware guru, Brian Richardson, gives us the blow-by-blow on the difficulties between two of the industry's most prominent star-crossed lovers.

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It started out like any relationship. The two met, and their eyes locked. They saw great promise in each other, first courting and then getting serious. They decided to get hitched, making their partnership official. There was a great honeymoon with lots of fanfare. The relationship looked sweet.

Then things started to go bad. First. their friends didn't approve of their relationship. Then came rumors of a strained relationship. And then we found out that ... well, the two just didn't ... er, 'perform well together' (if you get my drift). They fought over money, and talked about seeing other people. Now they're bad-mouthing each other in public.

It's an old story. A company gets burned after hitching the wagon to a proprietary technology standard. This time Intel got burned by Rambus.

For months, the Intel-Rambus relationship has been a hot topic in the computer arena. Rambus' serial-bus memory technology began promisingly, but hasn't been a strong performer. High production costs and a lack of acceptance by the industry made many question Intel's judgment in agreeing to this partnership.

Rambus has been in the news recently, but in a negative light. Several memory and chipset manufacturers have been sued by Rambus, claiming patent infringement on SDRAM technology that has been in the marketplace years before the Intel-Rambus deal was signed. Rather than improve their technology or work to reduce its cost, Rambus seemed to focus on using income from licensing "proprietary technology" to fuel its revenues.

But the heaviest blow fell last week when Intel criticized their "technology partner." Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, slammed Rambus in a magazine interview. Barrett's blamed Rambus for Intel's recent performance issues, and criticized their habit of suing competitors to collect revenue.

These comments make one wonder if the Intel-Rambus marriage is headed for divorce court, or if it will turn into a steel-caged death-match. Whatever the case, we can all learn a lesson from the Intel-Rambus partnership. Intel has suffered in the short-run, and perhaps in the long run, because it is tied to a proprietary memory architecture. Instead of embracing industry-accepted standards like DDR, Intel is backed into a corner by a closed standard. VIA, AMD and other companies can cash in on their DDR & SDRAM solutions (assuming Rambus doesn't sue them into an alternate universe) while Intel tries to regroup.

Now kids, what can we learn from this story:

  1. open standards are a good thing
  2. don't get hitched just for money

Brian Richardson has way too many Linux t-shirts, but no Linux pants. Somebody please give away some Penguin Pants at the next LWCE ... please.

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