TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Silicon Integrated Systems Inc. has obtained the license for Rambus Inc.'s 4i four-bank Direct Rambus DRAM technology to become the second core-logic chipset company after Intel Corp. that would supply RDRAM-enabled chipsets.
The licensing agreement confirmed an earlier report that SiS, which Intel has granted a license to a Pentium 4 chipset, is preparing to develop the technology. However, the Taipei-based company isn't expecting RDRAM to become the mainstream memory until the next three to five years, offering no details on production schedule or on volume.
"We're still at the evaluating stage," Alex Wu, director at SiS' integrated product division, said at a press conference here. "We'll need to talk to our customers about RDRAM, and see what they think about it." He added that a firm schedule would be set as soon as the first quarter of 2002.
SiS' mo ve comes after a decision made by Intel to table a similarly positioned chipset, code-named Tulloch, according to industry sources. The licensing of SiS is important given that Intel's decision to put the Tulloch on hold had cast some doubt on the future of the 4i RDRAM, according to sources with knowledge of the company's development plans. Intel has never publicly acknowledged the Tulloch postponement, saying that it does not comment on unannounced products.
For SiS itself, the licensing agreement is a renewal of its first deal with Rambus in 1994.
"RDRAM is certainly not the mainstream right now," Wu said. "But we can't be absent from the development of this technology." The RDRAM technology would allow SiS to integrate RDRAM intellectual property into future products for PCs, networking and communications applications.
According to Steve Chen, an executive with Rambus, Los Altos, Calif., the company's market share will be 7% - 8% for this year by unit shipment, or 12% - 13% by revenue. "W e believe the market share will continue to rise," Chen said.
The 4i RDRAM provides similar performance to mainstream 32-bank Rambus DRAM but at a lower cost, because it can be accommodated on a smaller die given that designers need to incorporate less logic circuitry to control the four memory banks.
Samsung Electronics, which is the market's leading RDRAM vendor, has long touted the 4i version as a cheaper RDRAM that could compete head-on with double-data-rate SDRAM for the mainstream and value segment of the electronics market.