Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Intel's Chip Troubles Cause PC Shipping Schedules to Slip [Updated]

The discovery of “design errors” in a chip that’s connected to Intel’s latest generation of processors, known by the code name Sandy Bridge, is disrupting the shipment plans of PCs from several vendors.

The first signs of trouble came in the form of a cancellation of a media briefing scheduled by Hewlett-Packard for Feb. 15 in New York concerning a new batch of HP business notebooks. I’m now told the event will be rescheduled. (Update: See HP’s statement below.)

Meanwhile, Dell told Bloomberg News that four of its PCs are affected, all of them in the higher end of the lineup: XPS and Alienware, both gaming-oriented machines, and the Vostro line, aimed at businesses.

Update: Dell spokeswoman Elizabeth Shine just sent a statement.

“Dell and Intel are in communication regarding the design issue in the recently released Intel 6 Series support chip set, code-name Cougar Point. This affects four currently-available Dell products, the XPS 8300, the Vostro 460, the Alienware M17x R.3 and the Alienware Aurora R.3 as well as several other planned products including XPS 17 with 3D.

For customers impacted by this issue, Dell offers a couple of solutions. Customers experiencing issues will be supported under the warranty and service terms. Once we have new chip sets from Intel in early April, we will provide a motherboard replacement that corrects the design issue at no cost to our customers. Replacements will be provided at the customers’ location and convenience via authorized Dell service providers. Affected customers may also take advantage of the applicable return policy, which may vary by region.

We will provide further details as they become available.”

What’s not clear yet is whether any shipments at Apple will be affected. As usual, Apple’s product plans are shrouded in the mists of corporate secrecy. The company declined to give a statement, citing a policy of not commenting on future products. But if history is any judge, it’s about time for Apple to update the MacBook Pro. The last update, as the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide helpfully reminds us, was on April 13, 2010, or nearly 300 days ago. The average number of days between updates is closer to 200. Though even if Apple is running later than it would like to on introducing certain Macs, it would probably never admit it.

Intel, for its part, is now starting to help people who recently bought PCs to figure out if they’re affected by the problem. A page on its support Web site walks users through the process of determining whether they have the chipset in question and, if they do, directs them to contact the “place of purchase” or an Intel field sales rep.


Update 2:
I just received a statement from HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak on the issue:

“HP is working with Intel and our distribution partners to address this industrywide issue. The issue relates to only a small fraction of HP PCs sold or ordered since on or about January 9 2011 when the Intel technology became available commercially. HP and Intel are working together to minimize any inconvenience to customers.

For HP, the issue is primarily limited to certain consumer notebooks and certain consumer desktops. One commercial desktop PC model marketed to small business customers in the Europe-Middle East-Africa region is affected. No other commercial desktop products currently shipping are affected. No HP commercial notebooks, ProLiant servers or workstations are affected.

To deliver a high-quality experience to our customers, on January 31 2011 HP stopped manufacturing products with the affected Intel technology and initiated a shipment hold on products in HP and channel inventory.

Customers can return their affected product and choose a comparable product or receive a refund. We will continue to work closely with Intel and our retail partners to address the needs of our customers.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik