Intel is investigating how early versions of its Lynnfield processors hit the market in Taiwan, weeks before its official release.
Lynnfield chips, which will be sold under the Core i5 and Core i7 brands, are versions of Intel's Nehalem processor family designed for use in consumer desktops. The chips are meant to bring Nehalem from the high-end of the desktop PC market into the mainstream.
The release of the processors for sale to consumers was meant to happen on September 8 but, in a rare example of Intel apparently losing control over its sales and distribution channel, the chips ended up on sale in Taiwanese shops last week.
Intel initially declined to comment on early sales of the chips, saying it wouldn't discuss unannounced products. Now the company says it's investigating what happened in an effort to determine who was responsible and perhaps stem the flow of chips into shops ahead of the scheduled launch.
"We are looking into the situation," said Barry Sum, an Intel spokesman.
The first Lynnfield chips and motherboards began flowing into the Taiwanese channel earlier this month as planned, around the same time that Intel held a series of training sessions on the new chips for its channel partners, who were bound by nondisclosure agreements.
However, the new chips along with motherboards fitted out with Intel's P55 chipset began to appear on sale at a large number of smaller computer shops at Taipei's Guanghua computer market.
It's not immediately clear who was responsible for putting the chips on sale early. The wide availability of the processors and the fact that motherboards that support the chips are on sale from different vendors, including Asustek Computer and Gigabyte Technology, suggests that no single company may be responsible.
One possibility is that the companies now selling the chips - which were originally scheduled for a July launch - decided that any Intel response would be outweighed by the benefits tapping into demand for faster chips and beating their competitors to market.
Demand for new computers has been sluggish in recent months, and hardware makers and distributors may have seen an opportunity to bring in customers by putting the chips on sale early.
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See also: Intel Core i5 spotted on retailer's site