South bridge shortages to slow ATI mobo shipments?
NVIDIA is slowing
shipments of ULI M1575 and M1573 south bridge chips in order to
discourage sales of ATI chipsets, according to industry sources cited by
DigiTimes. Earlier this year, NVIDIA acquired ULI
for $52 million in order to expand its MCP business and increase its
foothold in Asia. Most ATI motherboard partners use ULI south bridge chips,
however, as ATI's current SB450 suffers from poor I/O
performance and lacks support for 300MB/s Serial ATA transfer rates and Native Command Queuing. ULI's M1575 supports those features, and
manages to offer performance competitive with NVIDIA nForce4 MCPs.
Unfortunately, NVIDIA is expected to stop supplying ULI chipsets
from May onwards, and ATI has yet to announce a release date for its
upcoming SB600 south bridge. Manufacturers quoted by DigiTimes predict
that ATI's low SB450 inventory will only secure
sufficient supply for first-tier motherboard manufacturers, which could
cause shortages among smaller manufacturers. ATI may have an SB460 south bridge that's pin-compatible with the upcoming SB600 in the works, though. Unfortunately, the SB460 is apparently just an SB450 in a new package, so it won't improve the chip's I/O performance or add to its feature set.