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Latest Caminogate cockup will cost Intel dearly

Never mind the credibility, we're talking hundreds of millions

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The problems that have beset Intel with its i820 (Camino) chipset became compounded evermore today as the firm confirmed it was recalling nearly a million motherboards with defective memory translator hub (MTH) parts. The Register exclusively revealed the latest problem one month ago, but this one is going to cost Chipzilla dear. Intel has put aside a sum believed to be in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars and is offering a "new lamps for old" replacement system which uses Rambus memory instead. The recall only affects the SDRAM flavour of Caminogate. The firm is also, apparently, offering to populate such boards with Rambus RIMMs, which is one way of fulfilling its contract with the memtech firm, we guess. The number of boards affected is believed to number just short of a million, and, as we have reported almost ad nauseam, Rambus RIMMs are very much more expensive than SDRAM chips. But there are other implications to the recall. The SDRAM version of the i820 chipset will be unavailable for an entire quarter while Chipzilla attempts to fix this latest gaff. Intel issued a press release earlier today saying it has "Found some boards using the MTH (memory translator hub) may be sensitive to system noise under extreme conditions, and this issue may manifest itself in intermittent system reboots or system hangs during operation. This noise sensitivity may result in data loss and/or corruption. Intel has placed the MTH component and an Intel motherboard that uses the part on shipment hold." The bug will be fixed by Q3, it added. Many Taiwanese mobo manufacturers now appear to have lost confidence completely in Camino. The cockup has implications for firms which have invested time and money in adopting the i820 and are moving to reassure their customers while also warning that this twist may spell the end of the i820 as a platform. One told its customers: "This situation will cause 820 product disappear from market for at least one quarter. Whether the market can accept this product again when Intel fixes it in Q3, nobody knows". The same source added that Intel is also having problems, due to production yields, in producing 2 DIMM + 2 RIMM (Rambus) motherboards, so this project has also gone on hold. It is not only third party mobo manufacturers who are affected. There will be a long list of people queuing up for recompense from Intel including big PC names, large and small system integrators, resellers and customers. The problem, Intel claims, applies to mobos shipped after November. "Systems shipped before that time are unaffected by this issue," it claimed. The problem can "potentially cause data corruption" because of system noise, and can cause system resets. Intel is offering replacement mobos to its customers from top to bottom, and in the strangest twist of all twists in Caminogate, is offering Rambus i820 boards, unaffected by problems with MTHs. Some sources are suggesting it may also offer RIMMs with the mobos in way of compensation. Intel is setting aside money for the costs associated with the replacement, and in its words, say that cost "may be material". The firm issued a similar statement to its channel. The latest setback in the Caminogate soap is only one element in the galloping chaos that is appearing to affect Intel on the muvvaboard front, across a whole range of products. The now humbled Chipzilla has posted a utility at this page so that the slightly less than one million muvvaboard users can find out if they're going to be the lucky recipients of Rambus RIMMs. Intel's share price (INTC) had dropped by over $8 at press time to $108.75. Rambus' share price has risen by over $2. As a reader points out, that could help it reach its $500 threshold, given that nearly a million systems are affected. Let's hope there are enough RIMMs out there... ®

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