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Memory consortium fades away

Three years ago, Intel and the major memory manufacturers formed a group to hammer out future memory standards. Today, there?s just about nothing left of it.

Three years ago, Intel and the major memory manufacturers formed a group to hammer out future memory standards. Today, there?s nothing left but a couple of folding chairs and some PowerPoint handouts.

The Advanced DRAM Technology (ADT) consortium was created in January 2000 to develop guidelines for low-cost, high-performance computer memory. Memory based on guidelines from the group--which included Intel, Samsung, Infineon and NEC, among others--was expected to hit the market anywhere from 2003 to 2006, according to sources at the time.

The project, however, has effectively outlived its purpose. Intel left around six months ago, Intel fellow Pete MacWilliams said this week. Samsung, one of the biggest memory makers in the world, has also stopped participating and will instead work with the Joint Electronic Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC) to establish memory standards.

"It just got too difficult to manage," said Tom Quinn, vice president of memory marketing at Samsung. "Officially, it still exists, but it is a shell of a company."

At the time the ADT was formed, the memory market was in the throes of controversy generated by memory designer Rambus. Memory based on Rambus designs performed better than other memory on the market, but it was expensive to manufacture and ultimately unpopular with consumers.

Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus had also begun to launch lawsuits against memory manufacturers, alleging that DRAM and DDR DRAM, the most popular types of memory in PCs on the market, infringed on its patents. The lawsuits, which are ongoing, could lead to billions of dollars in royalties for Rambus.

JEDEC had ratified and established the DRAM and DDR DRAM standards. Participants in the ADT believed that by ratifying memory standards through the new group, rather than through JEDEC, future legal issues could be avoided, sources said at the time.

But creating a new organization proved more complicated than expected.

"It was a way to try to come up with a new way to accelerate standards," Quinn said. The companies, however, learned that "JEDEC is efficient."