Right after the launch of the new Pentium 4 chipsets Intel warned motherboard makers that an ICH6 defect was found on some boards. They advised to recall all these products. Shipments of these chips have been suspended, and all motherboards based on the 915 and 925 are being recalled. Intel assured motherboard makers that they will provide compensation for any losses.
Intel Asia Pacific's director of marketing Stanley Huang confirmed that problems have been found with ICH6, but customers have been notified and everyone is working to solve the problems. When asked to expand on the issues, Huang indicated that it was inappropriate for him to comment in any more detail. The problem has caught many of the motherboard makers off guard, coming so soon after the launch and at a time when Intel seemed to be running full steam ahead.
Bloomberg earlier today quoted Masatoshi Mizuno, an Intel official in Tokyo, as saying, “We’ve found a malfunction in a limited lot of controllers and we’re discussing how to handle the situation with our customers.”
Sources suggest that the problem has been made worse by inconsistent communication from various Intel departments. The motherboard department announced the 915/925 recall to their customers in the US before the chipset department told the Taiwan motherboard makers.
Intel told motherboard makers that this flaw occurs in the ICH6 south bridge chips produced between June 7 and June 14. According to some sources the defect may even prevent the defective motherboards from booting. Sources estimate the problem may affect a lot of around 10,000 boards per customer, but some motherboard makers have said that the problem is limited to isolated boards.
First-tier motherboard makers, including Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and Micro-Star International (MSI), said that they are already implementing Intel’s suggested solution, and that they have suspended shipments from the channels. However, production and marketing costs, as well as damage to their reputations are expected to have a significant impact.
Nevertheless, because the 915 and 925X series are higher-end products (more than US$120 per chipset), motherboard vendors don’t expect the problem to have spread very far. OEM makers, which have been more aggressive in developing the 915-based products, may be more seriously hit, sources said.
The incident is similar to Intel’s recall of 820 chipsets in May 2000, but with a less serious impact. In the 2000 recall, Intel paid customers US$110-130 for each defective product and recalled all-related materials. The company is likely to implement a similar remedy this time.
In an effort to limit the impact on its second quarter financial results, Intel will not compensate the motherboard makers until July, the sources commented.
The sources suggested that local chipsets players and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) may benefit from this recall, which broadens the window of opportunity for competing solutions. The opportunity for local chipset vendors in the LGA775 Pentium 4 market is limited by their lack of available products.