Intel is to delay the launch of its Timna processor for low-cost PCs until the first quarter of next year while it develops a new interface that will allow the chip to work with standard PC memory components.
Timna, which had been due to arrive in the second half of this year, was designed originally to work with a high-performance memory type known as Rambus DRAM (dynamic random access memory). Prices for Rambus DRAM have remained relatively high, however, and Intel must use a component known as a MTH (memory translator hub) so that the processor can work with more affordable SDRAM (synchronous DRAM) components.
Therein lies the problem. Last month, Intel announced that it would recall thousands of motherboards designed around its 820 chipset because of a problem with the MTH that has the potential to cause system failures. The chip maker is apparently unwilling to risk using the same MTH with its Timna processor, so it is quickly designing a new one.
"We've determined that (today's MTH) doesn't meet Intel's standards for quality and reliability," Intel spokesman Seth Walker said in a phone interview today. "As such, we will design a new memory interface product to be used specifically with Timna."
"Intel is going to wait to launch the Timna processor until that new memory interface is complete," and until PC manufacturers are ready to launch Timna-based systems into the market, Walker said.
Intel insisted that the delay isn't due to any problems with the Timna processor itself - only with the memory interface that connects the processor to SDRAM memory chips.
While the delay may bruise Intel's pride, at least one analyst said today's news isn't very significant for the company from a competitive standpoint, or for consumers.
Timna's design integrates the processor, graphics chip and memory controllers onto a single piece of silicon and should help reduce the overall cost of building a PC.
Intel's main rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), doesn't currently offer an integrated processor to compete with Timna. Taiwan's Via Technologies is developing such an intagrated device, but it's not clear yet when that product will arrive and Via's products are aimed more at manufacturers in Asia.
Intel will devote the additional capacity in its manufacturing plants that it saves from delaying Timna to producing more of its high-performance Pentium III processors, which have been in short supply. However, Intel still expects supplies of those processors to remain tight into the second half of this year. The Timna delay also isn't expected to have a material impact on Intel's financial performance.