Chipset flaw delays Intel's Sandy Bridge processor

Corrected version will ship by February with full production set to resume by April

Chip-maker Intel announced that it is having a design problem with its new line of x86 chips that will force the company to stop shipments of its new processor, Sandy Bridge.

A flaw has been found in the companion chipset, dubbed “Cougar Point,” that will affect Serial ATA ports in the chipsets that could potentially cause it to lose functionality over time. Computer hard drives, DVD players or other SATA-connected device ports would be affected by the Cougar Point flaw. The main Sandy Bridge processor of the chip is unaffected.

Intel has had to stop manufacturing of the Sandy Bridge line and will be shipping the corrected version by late February with full production back on line by April, according to an Intel press release. Intel Second General i5 Core and i7 Core quad-core processors are affected.

Devices with the affected processor started shipping Jan. 9 after Intel formally unveiled Sandy Bridge at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The chip has integrated central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) that represents a new way of constructing chips and are designed to make for better functionality for devices such as laptops in video creation and playback.

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The flaw in the Cougar Point chipset could be a billion-dollar gaffe for Intel, as it projects to lose $300 million in revenue in the first quarter, and repair and replacement costs will amount to $700 million. Intel will work with customers and  manufacturers to return affected devices.

The Cougar Point flaw cannot be fixed with a software update because the problem is ingrained in the silicon of the chipset, requiring it to be rebuilt in Intel factories.

Overall, neither Intel nor industry analysts appear to be very concerned over the delay. Intel is actually predicting a rise in revenue for the quarter, mostly from its acquisitions of Infineon Technology Wireless Solutions and the McAfee security suite.

“Is it going to be a near-term distraction and something for investors and customers to gripe about? Absolutely," Craig Berger, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, told Bloomberg. "But the stuff is relatively new. There are probably not many of them out. That's helping them mitigate losses."

Federal IT departments that were looking to retire older computers and replace them in the next month or so may see a bit of a delay on the market of expected technologies. Outside of the hit to Intel’s corporate checkbook and the delay to market of the Sandy Bridge processor, no major supply-chain disruptions -- such as a massive device recall -- are expected.

About the Author

Dan Rowinski is a staff reporter covering communications technologies.


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