Kingston May Be King of Memory Makers

By Kellner, Mark | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 15, 1999 | Go to article overview

Kingston May Be King of Memory Makers


Kellner, Mark, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CALIF. - If all you know about computer memory is that there isn't enough of it in your personal computer or Macintosh, a quick visit to what may be the center of the memory universe will expand your outlook.

Here, at the northern edge of California's Orange County, is Kingston Technology Co., renowned for its prowess in manufacturing memory modules for all sorts of machines - its latest catalog lists 4,700 different products, the overwhelming majority of which are memory-based.

The company is also a player when it comes to enclosures for a variety of storage and backup devices, and is generating a nice business in "enhancements," such as network interface cards, routers and processor upgrades.

But it is memory - commonly referred to as random-access memory, or RAM - that is the major product of Kingston. The company's stuff is so good that it sells chiefly to other computer makers (Toshiba, for example), although most of these prefer to be anonymous. The memory ends up in corporate computer systems and "server" computers that power major networks. American Airlines, for example, uses only Kingston memory for its reservation-systems computers; GTE has told its computer supplier, Hewlett Packard Corp., it only wants memory from Kingston.

According to John Sutherland, a veteran of the company who now heads up development, one key to marketplace success for the memory maker is to be priced a bit higher than the bargain brands, but not as much as the "premium" brands. Another is to be responsive to customer needs, as when users of a Sun Microsystems Ultra 5 workstation complained they could only install 512 megabytes of RAM, where users of another Sun product could add 1 gigabyte of memory. The more RAM, the faster and better most applications will run.

Mr. Sutherland and colleagues set to work on the problem. They discovered that the Ultra 5 could accept the full gigabyte of RAM, but the board holding the chips needed to be smaller than the modules designed by Sun. After some trial and error, the company came up with a successful module - and a lot of happy Ultra 5 users.

"We believe in building relationships with our customers," Mr. Sutherland said, "and then we help people out."

CLIMB ON THE RAMBUS?

Perhaps the greatest puzzler in the memory business today is whether a new standard for memory, called Rambus, will catch on. …

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