Intel's chip delay could give AMD a foot in the door

Technical problem, licensing snafu push back Centrino 2 laptop release

A problem with Intel Corp.'s integrated graphics chip set has forced the company to postpone the launch of its new Centrino 2 laptop system.

The problem could be just the foot in the door that rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has been looking for. While Intel is delaying its mobile chip set for a month, AMD is slated to announce its own next-generation mobile processor next week.

This is the first product delay for Intel in two years.

"Intel's glitches will be affecting one of the two biggest buying times of the year with back-to-school sales," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc. "AMD will be able to go to [resellers] and say, 'We have the next-generation products ready to roll, and Intel doesn't. This could provide an opening for AMD."

Intel confirmed that its Centrino 2 mobile platform, code-named Montevina, is being pushed back from a scheduled release in June to a partial release in July and a more expansive release in August. The new mobile processor and at least one chip set is now set to ship on July 14, according to Patrick Ward, an Intel spokesman. Wireless components and all the accompanying chip sets are slated to ship in August. Computer makers are now expected to begin shipping laptops based on new mobile processors to retail shops in July, added Elvin Ong, an Intel spokesman in Singapore.

"We're taking the extra days to address some problems with our chip sets [related to] integrated graphics," said Ward, who could not describe the exact problem. "There's a minor problem," he said. He added that the issue was discovered during testing and that the parts will have to be rescreened. Ward said that he doesn't believe the technical problem with affect other platforms.

The Centrino 2 platform includes new Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme Mobile processors, as well as an updated chip set with integrated graphics. On the wireless side, Centrino 2 will offer support for Wi-Fi and WiMax as an option.

A chip set is a group of integrated chips or circuits that are designed to work together. They're often sold as a single product.

Intel also said that it's trying to correct some licensing mistakes that were made when it was filing paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission and Industry Canada, which deals with economic investment in that country. Ward would not give specifics but noted that "terms and conditions" mistakes were made during Intel's filing and testing of its wireless antenna.

A chip delay means that laptop manufacturers that have been planning on using Montevina either will have to wait or go with another platform.

AMD was hammered by critics last year over product delays. While AMD struggled to regain its footing in the market, Intel picked up an increasing amount of mind share and market share. Now, Intel is taking a page out of AMD's how-not-to handbook.

Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., said the delay doesn't constitute a major faux pas for Intel, especially if the company quickly gets back on track.

"It's a minor blip for Intel, providing that they deliver as promised," he said. "The only thing that might make this even a medium-size deal is the timing. I'm wondering about the back-to-school season -- an important time for laptop vendors. But there are lots of Intel Centrino chips out there -- just not this latest, greatest, fastest chip."

King, however, said this might be an opportunity for AMD to steal back some shine that it has recently lacked and a bit of momentum.

Sumner Lemon of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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