Three Minutes with Rambus CEO Harold Hughes

Rambus Inc., the memory chip technology developer, is looking to the future world of multimedia as the way for its XDR memory chips to find their way into more mainstream products.

The memory technology is currently used mainly in game consoles, but Japanese DRAM (dynamic RAM) maker Elpida Memory unveiled a speedy DRAM chip based on XDR technology, the 512-megabit, 4.8GHz XDR DRAM. The chips are aimed at game consoles, HDTVs (high-definition televisions), PCs, servers and workstations.

But one knock against the company is that while its products may be used in some high end applications, they have not trickled down into the mainstream because they cost too much compared to DDR2 (double date, second generation) DRAM and other technologies. Regardless, Rambus CEO Harold Hughes, sees 2008 as a breakout year for Rambus technology to enter higher volume production as it wins over some HDTV clients.

He said people should also be on the lookout for XDR technology to make some headway into cellular phones and other mobile devices.

Hughes was in Taipei for the Rambus Developer Forum, and discussed new products in an interview with the IDG News Service.

IDGNS: What are the major product areas Rambus will focus on in the next year for its XDR memory technology?

Harold Hughes: I think 2008 will see a few big [technology trends] moving forward in computers, HDTVs and the game players, and some of the neatest stuff will come out on cell phones. Those are four markets where Rambus is well positioned, so we hope to have a great year.

IDGNS: What is Rambus working on in the mobile market? Handsets, ultramobile PCs?

Hughes: Consumers want everything that they have on a desktop in one of these things (he holds up an iPhone) and obviously the bandwidth requirements are very, very high relative to what used to be the case for a simple little phone, and all that needs to be supplied at incredibly low power. Well, we've made what I think are some astonishing breakthroughs in low-power technology that are in many cases as much as 80 percent over existing technology. In applications where you're using full motion videos (TV on mobile phones) much lower power with full motion videos.

We're looking forward to making our mark in the low-power and mobile market. Our approach will be to use the bandwidth cores available with XDR, but to use our very low power interfaces to drive those, and to do that not only through our suppliers but also to look to some of the major players in the cell phone industry to bring them to market in 2008 or 2009. It most likely won't be XDR as we know it, but it might be derived from XDR. It has to be high bandwidth and extremely low power and it has to have low packaging cost.

IDGNS: Can you give an idea of what you mean by low power?

Hughes: We have introduced some very interesting low-power technology. We put out a [research paper] and we showed that we could deliver 2.2 Gbps at 100 milliwatts. Mind-bogglingly low, 2.2 milliwatts per gigabit per second. We could run it off two-double AA batteries. The joke we was that we would try to get it to run off of a potato. We passed 3,600 terabits of data through our interface with two-AA batteries, which is the equivalent of 100 DVDs.

IDGNS: Why do you think XDR fits the HDTV market?

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