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Supply woes are over, Intel vows

Chips, chips, chips

Intel launched its latest family of chipsets amid high fives between workers and several whoops proclaiming "We're back", and promised the resources were aligned to make sure there wouldn't be a repeat of the shortages the company ran into last year.

A PC chipset is the pair of chips inside a computer that regulate the flow of data between the microprocessor and other chips on board, such as graphics and memory. It's a set of chips Intel has had a lot of trouble with over the past several months.

"We have had our supply problems, and clearly you, our customers, have suffered too," said Richard Malinowski, general manager of Intel's chipset group, to a room full of Taiwanese PC company representatives in Taipei.

Around the middle of 2005, companies in Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia began complaining they couldn't get enough Intel chipsets to meet soaring PC demand. The problem continued until early this year, and has been blamed for Intel's declining financial performance as well as allowing rival AMD to snatch away some market share.

Wafer thin

Chipsets have to be made specifically for certain processors and other chips, and they can't be interchanged. So a shortage of Intel chipsets would, in theory, boost demand for AMD processors and chipsets to meet PC demand.

To ensure there are no more supply problems, Intel has set aside two chip plants to manufacture its 965 chipset family, ensuring plentiful supply, Malinowski said. The chips will be made on 300mm (12in) silicon wafers, using 90nm (nanometer) production technology. The size of the wafers is similar to a dinner plate, 300mm in diameter. The chips are etched on the wafers at feature sizes of 90nm. A nanometer is a billionth of a metre.

"We, Intel chipsets, are back," Malinowski. said, a phrase he repeated several times during the conference.

The 965 chipset family will come in three flavours, P, G, and Q.

Viiv

The P965 Express chipset is already shipping in volume to PC makers, Intel said. The chipset is designed to work with the company's Core 2 Duo desktop processor, which will go on sale next month.

The other two chipsets should ship around August. The G965 chipset is made for use with Intel Viiv products and offers advanced video and graphics performance for home users. The Q965 chipset is made for Intel vPro office computing.

Intel's Viiv is a package of chips consisting of a dual-core processor, chipset and a networking chip aimed at the market for digital home products. It's modeled on Intel's Centrino, which similarly grouped a package of chips for laptops.

The Q965 chipset is aimed at Intel's vPro initiative, a collection of hardware and software services for business computing. VPro is meant to lower IT maintenance costs, increase security, and reduce electric bills for businesses.


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