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Intel’s Upcoming Rival—VIA Technologies Part 3

Monday, December 17, 2001
VIA saw the opportunity on PC133 memories while Intel was hesitating. It took the risk to upset big brother "Intel". Well, that paid off big, VIA took 50% of the chipset market in 2000.

Trend towards low cost PC

Since Rambus would add production difficulties and learning curve, only a few companies like Samsung, Hyundai, Micron, NEC, and Toshiba had actually equipped their factories for the Rambus production. At the time that CPU speed is increasing, the PC prices are actually going down. Demand for more value at lower price is putting Rambus in a worse position. DDR, which is similar price to SDRAM, would naturally be more preferable in the market place.

Intel Change of Attitude Propels DDR to Mainstream

Although DRAM manufacturers like Samsung, Hyundai, Hitachi, Toshiba and NEC have all taken out Rambus license to please Intel, yet they are still very reluctant to enter into volume production. The recent court decision that acquits Infineon from the Rambus intellectual property infringement also creates doubt among Rambus investors. This has weakened DRDRAM from competing with DDR. At the same time, DDR memory is also heavily promoted by number 2 CPU manufacturer, AMD. Together with the recent change in memory venue from Intel, DDR has now gained total support form all the major motherboard manufacturers in Taiwan. DDR SDRAM has now buckled up the market title and left the DRDRAM only in servers, game machines and the workstations.

Why did PC133 and DDR became the mainstream memory?

Under wide support of the Taiwanese manufacturers, VIA PC133 chipset has became the main stream for the PC market. Since DDR is just an extension of SDRAM, it would be the natural direction for VIA. We believe that the days of DRDRAM are numbered.

To work closely with customers

When mentioned about the PC133 memory standard, Mr. Wen Chi Chen said (Click here for Biograpy)that he could not have done it without close working relationship with the major DRAM manufacturers. VIA has been promoting worldwide customer partnership concept. We wonder how does the motherboard and system manufacturers rate this maverick call VIA that rises up so quickly within the last two years?

Everyone in the IC industry admit that VIA has swept the market on PC133 chipset. It is now on the same playing field as big brother Intel. The UK Division General Manager of the major motherboard company, Asus said “Intel chipset market share in UK was 72% in 1999 and only 23% in 2000.” The reason for Intel’s drop in market is rather obvious.

Although Mr. Wang did not clarify to whom Intel had lost their chipset market, it was rather obvious that the mainstream chipset title in 2000 belongs to VIA. No wonder all major Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers praised that this fast up-rise of VIA in the last two years was “God’s Grace”.

On the contrary, Intel was having problem on its products. This had given VIA the opportunity to move forward. Assistant manager in marketing of Asus recalls “ In this battle of chipsets, Intel was trying to integrate graphics and networking functions into the chipset. This complicates the chipset. Our response to Intel was not to do it. However, Intel’s roadmap and planning were usually done 2 years ahead of time and would be difficult to abandon. So when they finally ran into problem, it was a not a surprise for me and for the industry. We did not think it would have come like that.”

To the upstream manufacturers, VIA maintains “open architecture” to ensure its success. It also needs a little luck and the right timing. In order to win the battle of the DDR chipset, the motherboard manufacturers felt that it would be a fierce battle for VIA. However, VIA’s platform architecture is praised and supported by the motherboard manufacturers.

Click Here for Part-4

By: Johnson Wang
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