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Coppermine bug a marchitectural disaster

Intel yields are the Coppermine issue

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Analysis Now that the "respectable" news wires have picked up on our story yesterday (you know who you are) about the bug that means you have to switch your PC on twice, it's worth taking a longer look at the implications for Intel and for people able to buy Coppermine processors. We note that several of these wires have run, verbatim, comments from Intel US PR spinners claiming that the problem only affects between one to two per cent of Coppermines going out the door. But, as we pointed out some months back apropos Q dumping NT for Alpha, one per cent is 100 per cent for the one per cent affected. Would you get cross if you switched on your machine and nothing happened? How many Coppermine processors have shipped so far? You know, the one question that Intel will never answer is how many of anything it has shipped, and so we don't know whether this famous "one to two per cent" is between 500,000 and a million, or one, or two. We rather suspect that it's not 500,000 that are affected, and these are the reasons why. Currently, Intel is manufacturing .18 micron Coppermines in four fabs, to wit and those are in Oregon, Arizona, California and Israel. To the best of our knowledge, these are not 100 per cent devoted to churning out the pesky parts. Intel, when we spoke to the company some weeks back, said that it would continue making and selling .25 micron processors, although it wants to move its entire fabrication procedure over to .18 micron by the end of next year. One Wall Street semiconductor analyst said, off the record yesterday: "I do not think they have a fundamental manufacturing problem. In my opinion, Intel with Texas Instruments, Micron and Samsung are the best of the best in semiconductor manufacturing. However, almost everyone is having a problem in the 0.18 transition compared to 0.25 transition. This underestimation seems to be the main cause of the problem. I believe intel will sort this problem out in 1Q00." Yet even if this soon-to-be-famous "one to two per cent" only represents five to 10 Coppermine chips, Intel has found itself caught on the dangerous fork of perception. Self evidently, there are not yet enough Coppermines around to satisfy demand, and that has cost Intel and its PC customers face, as well as making some of its most loyal customers move to the AMD Athlon competition. The most famous of Intel's previous erratumnotbugs was the FDIV "flaw" with the Pentium processor which caused it to massively crank up its keyring production as it was forced to recall chips and re-imburse customers. At first, it didn't want to do that. Does anyone seriously think that Dell (and now presumably other major manufacturers), would put a stop to selling PCs if only one or two machines were affected? We think not. The launch of Intel Coppermines prematurely on the 25th of October, without proper motherboard support, can now be seen as a kneejerk reaction, forced on Intel by marketing issues. The 49 bugs in Coppermine so far reported further demonstrate that Intel, like Ethelread the Unready, was unready for Verdigrisgate. ® See also Intel, now Dell, acknowledge Coppermine bug

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