At IDF: iMac look-alikes and monitors as hats

All-in-one machine at Intel confab bears resemblance to new Apple PC. Also: High-tech sandwich boards?

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
4 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Those who haven't been to an Intel Developer Forum in a while might think they're entering the Twilight Zone when visiting the Rambus booth.

The company that once waged war against DDR DRAM manufacturers is now selling itself as a provider of the rival memory technology. Back in May, Rambus announced that it would start selling a double data rate controller to device makers.

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It's not the same golden goose the company once envisioned, with memory chipmakers and device makers all lining up to pay royalties for Rambus' proprietary memory interface.

But the company thinks that it can make a buck or two as memory controllers become trickier components to create. Rambus also gets royalties on DDR memory from some memory chipmakers, though that has to do with intellectual-property claims from Rambus' lawyers rather than with services provided by its engineers.

The company has already signed up Matsushita as a DDR controller for a next-generation HDTV and has had talks with plenty of others.

DDR controller work is just a small fraction of Rambus' business. But marketing director Rich Warmke says more companies will outsource memory controller work in the future. "We think it's just a matter of time before that happens," Warmke said.

Hey, that looks familiar
Intel's model digital home contained an all-in-one PC with a striking new design built around a white flat-screen monitor, but despite a strong resemblance, it's not the new iMac. It's a PC from Korean PC maker Lluon.

IMAGE The Intel worker stationed by the PC said he's had it for several weeks, so it's definitely not a quick copy of Apple Computer's latest creation. It does boast a 17-inch-wide screen like the iMac, and it even touts new cooling technology for quieter operation--also a feature on the latest Mac. But of course, this is a Windows-based computer with an Intel chip, not a Mac with IBM's G5. Another difference is that the Lluon machine features a built-in Webcam, whereas Apple sells its iSight camera as an add-on.

And unfortunately for Americans and Europeans with Apple envy, the machine is slated to be available only in Korea. The machine touted by Intel had the Korean version of Windows on it, making it not too friendly for demos, despite its striking looks. So Intel just used the beauty to stream music to another part of its digital-home setup.

The worst job at IDF
There are lots of thankless jobs at a tech conference, and IDF is no exception. Having to feed the pack of journalists camped out in the pressroom is certainly no great shakes.

But apparently, journalists these days get just as grumpy without their Internet connection as they do when they're hungry. The wired network went down several times Tuesday, forcing techs to tell hoards of scribes on deadline to have patience.

There was some spottiness in the conferencewide wireless network on Wednesday, but hey, a double-sided disclaimer placed in every attendee's bag warned that among other things, such outages were possible and that the chipmaker would not be legally liable.

The document went on to note that Intel would also not be responsible if you bought something on the Net and were disappointed by it, and that it was not OK to use the network to send spam.

OK, so one can add whatever lawyer had to write the disclaimer to the list of people with thankless jobs.

IMAGE But perhaps the worst job here involved the poor souls walking around the show with flat panel-monitors strapped to their heads. One such worker said Tuesday that it wasn't as bad as it looked, though the monitors and their custom backpacks weigh in at about 35 pounds. The monitor minders have to do it for only 30 minutes at a time, but the same two-man crew was back Wednesday for more punishment.

If one is interested in torturing his or her fellow humans in this way, a company called Pixman provides the technology.

And finally, there seems to be a fair rate of illness among Intel workers here. Future CEO Paul Otellini told reporters that he was battling a cold, and another engineer was coughing through much of his presentation. That led a colleague to quip, "Maybe Intel could use some better antivirus technology."

For all the talk of a wireless world, it's clear that at least one cord is a necessity in the digital age: the power cord. Most IDF sessions ground to a halt Wednesday afternoon, when a power outage struck the upper level of Moscone Center.

Attendees were forced to make their way in the dark toward exit doors that kept automatically closing, until some attendees propped them open with trash cans. Cool tempers greeted the first minutes of the outage, but as the crowds outside the convention hall swelled, and with the air conditioning in that section off, some people began to get hot under the collar.

Most took it in stride, with many seeking out old colleagues or chatting it up with others they knew. The laptops at the Internet kiosk worked on battery power, but evidently, the Internet connection was dependent on power to networking gear.

ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins contributed to this report.