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Intel pays off Rambus

Companies renegotiate pact over memory

Intel and memory tech company Rambus have reworked their contractual agreements in a way that looks like letting Intel off the hook over industry infighting over SDRAM.

Rambus and Intel signed a five-year cross-licensing agreement on Monday, allowing Intel to use all patented Rambus technology while giving Rambus permission to use Intel technology for its high-speed memory interfaces.

Avo Kanadjian, vice president of Rambus worldwide marketing, said that the deal didn't expire, the two vendors just decided to renegotiate it. But it looks like Intel's getting the best of the deal.

"My guess is that Intel renegotiated its contract with Rambus to reduce the level of contractual obligation to use Rambus memory," said Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research. "In exchange, they paid Rambus some money to get that."

Until recently, Intel's Pentium 4 processor could only be used with Rambus' RDRAM (Rambus dynamic RAM) memory technology. Last week, Intel launched its first chipset allowing the Pentium 4 to be used with competing SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) technology.

This links to the growing number of firms who are defying the Great Intel and trying to go their own way by making P4 chipsets using SDRAM, such as Via.

Intel holds many patents that would be useful to Rambus, said McCarron. "Intel has patents going back to DRAM. It also has a lot of memory controller-type patents and patents related to memory caching," he said. "Generally, when you have a large company like an Intel… they tend to have patents that everybody uses."

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