Intel's having trouble keeping up with demand for its Pentium 4 processor, leaving some customers and retailers short of the chips in the run up to the end-of-year holiday sales season.
"At this time demand is stronger than our supplies," said Hisashi Nagai, a spokesman for Intel KK, the company's Japanese subsidiary. Nagai said a strong jump in demand from October that surpassed the company's estimates came as a surprise and left factories unable to fulfil orders.
"Pentium 4 processor demand is very strong and we are increasing the volume. Factories are [increasing production] and we expect to catch up at the end of the year," he said. Demand for the processor doubled from the first quarter to the second quarter, Nagai said, and in the third quarter it was four times that of the second.
In particularly short demand is the 478-pin version of the chip, one of two types that Intel offers. The other, which has 423 pins, is similar but plugs into an earlier type of connector socket. Because each chip is physically incompatible with the other's socket, the continuing availability of 423 pin Pentium 4 chips is not easing supply problems.
In Tokyo's Akihabara district, an area thick with stores selling chips and components for computers, some retailers began hanging up the 'sold out' signs for the 478-pin variant of the chip earlier this week.
In the USA, meanwhile, Dell stopped offering the 2GHz Pentium 4 altogether for a short period earlier this month because supplies were lacking, Dell spokesman Tom Kehoe said. The disruption lasted only a few days, he said, and he wasn't aware of any ongoing supply problems.
Intel representatives in the USA did not return calls seeking comment for this story.