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K8, PCI Express, and the old IXP
FiringSquad: In previous conversations with representatives from ATI, it has been indicated that we’ll see an Athlon 64 chipset. With the architecture’s memory controller integrated into the processor, it seems extremely hard to differentiate one core logic product from another with the exception of feature set. What do you think that ATI can do to set itself apart in the high-end K8 chipset market?
Dave: Even though K8 features an integrated memory controller, the architecture creates a different set of opportunities to differentiate. We are committed to developing K8 core logic, though it probably won’t be in the next six months. However, we will be working on both desktop and notebook chipsets.
FiringSquad: From conversations I’ve had with major OEMs, it sounds like ATI has a jump on the development of PCI Express graphics adapters. Will this speed the development of your next-generation core logic?
Dave: PCI Express is a standard, much like PCI or AGP, to which all manufacturers have access. With that said, we’ll have both discrete and integrated versions of our next generation Pentium 4 chipset that use PCI Express, which OEMs like because it provides them flexibility.
Interjection by Chris Evenden, ATI’s director of public relations: ATI was first to demo a PCI-Express graphics card (at Fall IDF, Sept 16). As far as we know, NV hasn’t got silicon yet. All the major OEMs have our silicon to experiment with, and to help them bring up their own PCI-E systems. We’ll be ready with a full top-to-bottom range of native PCI-E (that is, we won’t use a bridge chip) for Intel’s launch (likely to be early June, but Intel’s launches are “real” launches, with products in retail, so we’ll be in full production before then).
FiringSquad: One criticism I’ve heard repeatedly in regards to the IGP 9100 concerns its somewhat dated IXP 250 south bridge. Is there anything being done to augment the south bridge architecture of your premier P4 chipset?
Dave: Of course, we have a south bridge roadmap with improvements planned. RS300 is highly anticipated, but we’ve encountered some delays getting our USB 2.0 qualification, which is why the chipset is only now seeing availability. We’ve learned a lot about what it means to operate full-time in the chipset market. Several motherboard manufacturers will be integrating Gigabit Ethernet chips onto their RS300 board, but we don’t have any plans to incorporate Gigabit functionality, at least in the short-term.