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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials | Industry Update: June 2000 ]

Motherboard Update

Slot A / Socket A Boards

KX133 is obsolete, and KT133 is not yet quite ready. What's a mother - er, motherboard maker - to do? It looks like it depends upon the manufacturer. Just as with the launch of the Athlon almost one year ago, only a few manufacturers were invited to participate in the rollout of the Tbird/Duron processors. These four are ASUS, FIC, Microstar (MSI), Gigabyte and Biostar. AOpen decided that they wanted to be a part of this rollout, so they commissioned a special team of engineers to develop a Socket A board, which they did in only a few weeks!

Unfortunately, the KT133 chipset is not yet available in any real quantity, so boards will likely not appear in volume until later this month. AMD has approved several models already, but cannot provide resellers with any real direction in regards to availability. Some sources have indicated that AMD is somewhat apprehensive about this situation, due to VIAs handling of the KX133 situation.

There have also been some reports that several motherboard manufacturers are sitting on a few hundred thousand KX133 chipsets, and are looking for AMD to ante up and help cover the losses. It is unknown whether AMD is willing to do this, but it may be a valuable gesture of good will and loyalty - particularly in light of Intel's actions during the past month with regard to the MTH problem and the Coppermine supply issues.

On a more positive note for AMD, it appears that some of the biggies in the industry (notably ASUS and Gigabyte) are becoming believers. One source indicated that ASUS is looking at approximately 45% of Q3 motherboard sales will be for AMD processors - this is up from 0% this time last year, and 20% in Q1! That is quite a large momentum change, but not altogether surprising considering the fragmented Intel roadmap.

Slot 1/Socket 370 Boards

As indicated in the chipset section, the re-release of Katmai processors during May has caused a sudden increased interest in BX based boards. This may turn out to be a stroke of genius by Intel, as it appears to have at least slowed down the market erosion they were experiencing over the past few months. It is doubtful, however, that this is anything more than a very short term trend. The real test will be when chipset supporting DDR begin to appear.

Another positive for Intel is that requests for Vancouver motherboards (i820 w/RIMM) increased to very high levels as a result of the swap that Intel has offered for the recalled Cape Cod (i820 w/DIMM) boards. Once again, however, this looks very much like a short term trend, and will likely scale back quickly over the next month or two.

Some manufacturers have indicated that Intel believes Q3 demand will be good, most likely because of the renewed availability of Katmai processors, as well as greater availability of Coppermines - particularly in the higher speed grades. For this reason, Intel has reportedly notified their contractors to expect increases in their motherboard orders.

Next: Processor Update

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