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Intel 0.13 micron chips delayed?

CPU production kit falls behind schedule

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Intel may have to put back its plans to ship 0.13 micron chips thanks because a key part of the equipment needed to make them has been delayed by its manufacturer.

At issue is the ship date of SVG Lithography's Micrascan V 193nm lithography machine. The company last week admitted it will be shipping kit up to four months later than planned.

The Intel connection comes from industry sources who claim that the unnamed microprocessor manufacturer, which SVG last year signed up in a $100 million supply contract, is Intel. So, since the Micrascan V will be four months later, Intel's 0.13 micron CPUs will be four months late too.

Intel's 0.13 micron plans centre on the launch of the die-shrink Pentium III, codenamed Tualatin, early Q3, followed by the die-shrink Pentium 4, codenamed Northwood, late Q4. The company's official line is that 0.13 micron chips will be launched around the middle of the year with a 0.13 micron P4 coming in Q4. and that it's still on schedule to do both.

Of course, as the recent 1GHz Mobile PIII launch appears to have shown, Intel will ship limited numbers of a chip in order to meet its deadlines and then warn of shortages. It could easily follow such a precedent with either Tualatin or Northwood.

Then again, it can use certain techniques to produce 0.13 micron parts on 0.18 micron chip-making equipment, though these are believed to eliminate much of the cost saving made by going to 0.13 micron (more chips per wafer).

Intel has almost certainly got other possible suppliers lined up - indeed, EBN reports that the company has evaluated 0.13 micron kit from Nikon Precision and from ASM Lithography.

With P4 prices falling so far this month, you can argue that there's increased pressure on Intel to make the shift to 0.13 micron to improve its margins. It's also hoping that increased sales volumes engendered by the cuts will help matter too, but given the current economic conditions that may not happen until the second half of the year. ®

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