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Micron division adds graphics cards

One of the leading manufacturers of PC memory chips gets into the graphics card business in a move to "provide a little balance to the product line."

Micron Technology, one of the leading manufacturers of PC memory chips, announced Monday that it is getting into the graphics card business.

The company's Crucial Technology division, which makes memory modules for consumer PC upgrades, has begun selling the Crucial Radeon 8500LE, a midrange graphics card based on ATI Technologies' previous generation of graphics chips. Graphics-chip leader Nvidia doesn't sell its products directly to consumers, instead it provides chips to third-party manufacturers that put them on plug-in cards that also include memory and video connectors. ATI both produces its own boards and sells to third-party board makers.

Rafe VanDenBerg, director of marketing for Crucial, said graphics cards give Micron a new avenue to leverage the Crucial brand and the company's position in the notoriously volatile memory market.

"It does provide a little bit of balance to the product line," VanDenBerg said.

After the graphics chip, memory is the most expensive component on a card, so Crucial will be able to compete on price as well, VanDenBerg said.

"We have a significant advantage in that we're the manufacturer of a major component on the board," he said. "We think we can put a better product and better value proposition on the market."

VanDenBerg said Crucial chose the Radeon 8500LE for its first card to court the broadest part of the PC market. The company will evaluate the market in coming months to decide whether to offer additional graphics cards, including high-end cards based on new chips from ATI and Nvidia.

"In launching this, we wanted to get kind of a sweet-spot product before we decide whether to go in other directions, if we head off into the cutting-edge space or into more mainstream product lines," he said.

The Radeon 8500LE has 128MB of DDR memory, dual-display support and connections for S-video capable televisions. It sells for $135.