July 2000 Industry Update

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Motherboard Update

It appears that motherboard prices will begin to go up soon, if they have not already by the time you read this. There are several reasons for this, including higher chipset costs, additional PCB layers to handle higher speed busses and shortages of components such as resistors and capacitors. In fact, most estimates for i815 based boards are claming prices will be around $150. VIA based boards should be slightly less expensive, but very likely only by about $20.

Slot 1 / Socket 370 boards

Because of the lack of performance chipsets from Intel, some motherboard makers are looking into Socket 370 boards to support the Coppermine processors using the i440BX chipset. The main concern is that without AGP 4x and UDMA/66 support, as well as the lack of ‘official’ PC133 memory support there will not be much interest in the marketplace. Of course, for those who are not entirely comfortable with non-Intel chipsets this might be a reasonable solution until either DRDRAM becomes more affordable, or the i815 proved to be a viable option.

At least two motherboard manufacturers have told me that they will be sampling DDR capable motherboards for the P6 in August, with the intent of a late August or early September release. Most manufacturers are looking at volume shipments starting around October, for both P6 and K7 boards. There appears to be a great deal of controlled enthusiasm for these chipsets, though nobody is willing to make too much noise for fear of attracting too much attention should the market not accept it.

Even though the Pentium IV is scheduled for release in September, most motherboard manufacturers have told me that the volumes this year will be inconsequential. The announcements and impending release are really more of a bid for mind share than actual market share.

Slot A / Socket A boards

Though the VIA KT133 chipset was released in early June, there are currently very few manufacturers offering product. Many manufacturers are being cautious, particularly because of the KX133 fiasco, and because of early problems with the KT133 (reportedly corrected). A few manufacturers were left with a huge volume of KX133 based boards, and are reportedly putting pressure on AMD to produce either a large quantity of Slot A Athlons (over one million), or reimburse them for their losses. If they are not made ‘whole’ again, some of these manufacturers may not be willing to support AMD going forward. Currently, only MSI appears to be shipping Socket A motherboards in volume.

Most manufacturers are anxiously looking toward a stable KT133 (and KM133) chipset because they believe this platform will spur a great many sales. The Duron / KT133 combination is anticipated to provide an inexpensive, yet powerful, combination that will also allow for a great future upgrade path. Were it not for the high price of the i815 chipset, manufacturers believe that it would be a great seller as well.


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