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IBM's Nvidia, Apple chip timetable hit by blackout

Plant OK, but production delayed

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IBM's 300mm wafer fabrication plant in East Fishkill, New York was shut down for a two days last week in the wake of Thursday's massive blackout.

The plant's production line cycled into what IBM call "maintenance mode" after the mains power failed. Emergency back-up generators took over immediately, allowing wafers passing through the production line to be completed, a company spokesman told EBN on Friday.

With no new wafers on the lines, the plant's equipment was put into stand-by mode, essentially to allow IBM to perform safety checks. These will be needed to ensure that no kit was damaged in the switch from mains to back-up power, and that no hazardous chemicals have spilled.

Checks complete, the plant was expected to have gone into production again over the weekend. However, even assuming the blackout had no direct effects, IBM will still have fallen behind schedule by two days.

The company won't say which products are currently passing through the line, but PowerPC 970 chips - aka the G5 - for Apple and parts for Nvidia - possibly the NV36 or NV40 - are on the company's list.

It takes a couple of days for a wafer to pass through the plant before being packaged and tested. With Power Mac G5s due to ship this month - probably at the very end of August - we doubt the blackout-induced two-day delay will hit Apple's ability to ship the first Power Macs on time, but it may slow the company's broader product ramp a tad.

With Nvidia's chips due later in the year, that company's timetable may be flexible enough to cope with the effects of the delay, even if its processors have already begun to roll off IBM's production lines. ®

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