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Intel supply problems loom

Ryu Connor
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This Yahoo! News article discusses a problem that may spawn a new nickname for Intel. The once appropriately named Chipzilla might better be called Shortagezilla. Not only is the Mobile Pentium III 1GHz processor in short supply—a continued by-product of the P6’s difficulty in scaling, even on a .18 micron process—but it has now become apparent that Intel’s orders for the Micrascan V manufacturing machine will arrive a months late, allowing only one out of four proposed fabs to hit its maximum production capacity.

Nevertheless, sources said the delay has forced Intel to sign a multimillion-dollar licensing agreement to use an alternative chip-making solution from Numerical Technologies Inc., in San Jose, Calif. Called phase-shift mask technology, it will enable Intel to use 0.18-micron machines to make 0.13-micron parts.

This alternative plan sounds more like a last-ditch effort than a desired option. Personally, I have found that money tends to make little things like scheduled delays get smaller. Time and a half for employees, plus a nice profit for the company, is an incredible motivator. It seems to me there might be ways to get more Micrascan V units built faster without comprising their quality. Just seems Intel doesn’t like the sticker price attached to those options.

But then some analysts believe this all might be a non-issue:

More important, Rinnen said, is if Intel needs to move quickly to 0.13. “Is there a market for those products?” he asked. “We can only speculate.”

Jim Kennedy, senior systems analyst at CST Inc., said he doesn’t believe so.

“I don’t see a 20 percent boost in CPU power making much of a difference in an average user’s daily life,”

They may have a point. Regardless, I find this all very strange behavior from a company that used to believe “only the paranoid survive.”

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