Intel's Arrandale chip shortage hindering Apple, other notebook makers

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Constrained supplies of Intel's new Arrandale Core i3, i5 and i7 processors may be responsible for delaying shipments of some of Apple's new MacBook Pros while postponing other PC makers' laptop launches by months.

A report by PC World cited securities researcher CLSA Asia Pacific Markets as saying "A dearth of the [Arrandale] chips could cause delays in the rollout of sleek new laptops by three months or more," while noting that the supply problems could give Intel rival AMD an opportunity to win market share in the fast growing notebook arena.

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini admitted, "we were slightly behind, quite frankly, satisfying all the demand our customers wanted on 32nm [processors] in the first quarter even though we were producing much more than we first thought. We expect to catch up to that demand in the second quarter on 32nm over the course of the quarter."

Shortages of the new chips have caused open market prices to rise 20% over the contract price of the parts. The report cited IDC research director Shane Rau as saying the shortage of Arrandale chips is affecting smaller PC vendors the most, as large vendors get first priority from component makers during shortages. Smaller vendors "have to find other solutions," the report stated.

Apple's use of the Core 2 Duo in the 13" MacBook Pro (rather than the latest Core i3, and with no option to use other Arrandale processor upgrades) appears to have been an engineering decision made in response to realizing that Intel would not be able to deliver the new parts quickly enough.

Some orders of 15" MacBook Pros are being pushed back to the end of April or early May, particularly custom "built to order" models with Core i7 upgrades.

While the popular 13" model was initially sold out in some locations on its first day of availability, supplies have since seen fewer problems because of its use of more common CPUs unaffected by Intel's Arrandale supply problems.

Apple is rumored to be in discussions with AMD that could balance Apple's dependance upon Intel as the sole supplier for its Mac CPUs. AMD offers cheaper processor options and better graphics cores thanks to its acquisition of ATI, but does not currently match Intel in performance or efficiency in its mobile processors. Intel also has much greater manufacturing capacity.