Memory Market Overview: February 2005 :
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Memory Market Overview: February 2005

Date: 2005-2-12

   We’re resuming our traditional monthly reports about the well-being of the PC memory market. Since this coverage will deal with the results of the first month of the year, I will a...

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That’s enough about the prices ?they just don’t deserve any more of our attention. Now we can have a look at the technologies and the news from the corporative life. The technologies are evolving, in spite of some people willing to make the others pay for it. It’s only five years since the last of the Rambus wars was waged (we’ll talk about this company shortly), but Rambus’s clone has appeared in the horizon, the Canada-based MOSAID.

In fact, MOSAID has been claiming the role of the creator of DRAM for long, but they have been doing so without that enthusiasm Rambus used to display. But Rambus has been somewhat silent, while MOSAID has gained its strength. In January we learned that Samsung gave up its position in the lawsuit that had continued since 2001 and acknowledged MOSAID’s victory and paid it the appropriate tribute. Hynix is selected as the next target ?MOSAID filed a suit against Hynix’s using fundamental principles of the DRAM architecture the day after the successful conclusion of the Samsung case.

I only have two questions: why Samsung and the Japanese companies are a weak link against the blackmail of this kind (right now, MOSAID is receiving its tribute from Samsung, Fujitsu, NEC, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Oki Electric, Matsushita, Winbond Electronics, Sony Corporation and Royal Philips Electronics; so there’s only Samsung from the top five in this list). And how many are there such obscure DRAM inventors left that we don’t know anything about until their filing the first suit? Anyway, they know which country they should start from.

More about Samsung and Rambus: as you know, Samsung is among the major licensees of SDRAM with Rambus, not mentioning the RDRAM license. During its RDRAM affair Intel put a few million dollars in Samsung to increase the production of this type of memory. Samsung even promised then that the market volume would be 600 million RDRAM chips in the 128Mb equivalent in 2002. The whole affair crashed eventually, but Samsung and Rambus have remained allies thereafter.

As a result, at the end of January Samsung at last started to make 256Mb chips of XDR, the new memory type from Rambus which aspires for the title of the best system memory for the PC. Samsung promises to offer 512Mb XDR chips in the first half of this year that provide a bandwidth up to 12.8GB/s. That’s impressive, but XDR won’t be system memory for the PC. Samsung will probably sell its produce for Sony’s PlayStation 3 (yet another old-time partner of Rambus’s, by the way).

Now the most funny thing is Rambus’s running a new attack against the memory manufacturers as if they are not tired yet of MOSAID! California Northern District Court began to investigate Rambus’s claim about Hynix’s violating 29 of its patents. Then Rambus files a suit against GDDR3 manufacturers (Hynix, Infineon, Nanya and Inotera, a joint venture of Infineon and Nanya) who violate 18 of its patents. Rambus must have forgotten the SDRAM-concerned suit it lost to Infineon a couple of years ago. Today Nanya and Infineon stand firm and say they won’t pay any licensing fees.

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