back to article PC makers: Intel CPU shortages are here to stay ... for six months

As Intel battles to get on top of CPU shortages that have plagued its business in recent times, the world's largest computer makers are hunkering down for six months of tight supply. A surge in Windows 10 PC refreshes, demand from cloud infrastructure builders and Apple, coupled with struggles to produce 10nm silicon has …

  1. RGE_Master

    I remember buying a massive 64MB of memory for an AMD Athlon 750MHZ

    It cost me £97..... for 64MB. Those were the days.

    1. Dave's Jubblies

      Pah... when I was a kid...

      I spent £100 on FOUR MEGABYTES...

      And I thought that was a bargain...!

      1. ridley

        Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

        Ahh I remember when I had by mistake vastly overstocked on 1mb sticks which for me at the time was about 500 of them at about £5 each.

        I spent a day trying to pass some on as I didn't like to stock more than about a hundred, but got no where.

        That night the Kobi earthquake happened and over the next week or so prices rose to about £100 each before I sold.

        I was in two minds about whether I should profit from it but in the end sense and the prospect of a nice holiday prevailed.

      2. DropBear

        Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

        I spent £100 on FOUR MEGABYTES...

        Luxury! I can't even recall how much I've spent on a 256K DIP RAM chip to double my Trident video card's memory, back when video cards were still RAM-extensible...

      3. Kane

        Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

        "I spent £100 on FOUR MEGABYTES..."

        512kB memory stick for my Atari 520 STFM to bring it up to 1 MB.



        1. Paul IT

          Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

          In 1997 Flew to USA, to purchase a Matrox Mystique 4MB graphics card as you couldn't get them in the UK. A bargain at $250 (not including the return flight).

          1. Roger 11

            Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

            I bought a 2 MB one and spent $200 to add 2 MB more.

      4. Anomalous Cowshed

        Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

        When I was a kid...I spent £400 on a 4 Mb module to double my Toshiba laptop's memory, and then I sent it back for a refund because the sheer cost could not be justified and there didn't seem to be any improvement in performance anyway.

      5. Boo Radley

        Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

        64 MB for a VAX was $64,000.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

          In the future, we're going to remember having spent $50 on a measly 8 GB of RAM.

          1. Flakk

            Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

            In the future we're going to remember when each country or region had its own currency, before everyone converted over to Bezos Bux.

        2. adam payne

          Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

          1UP for VAX

        3. sprograms

          Re: Pah... when I was a kid...

          I recall that upgrading my 1984 Mac to a Mac+ cost $1, get the RAM up to 1MB!

          I told my son last week that I currently had $32,000,000 worth of memory in a bag on the back seat of my 1986 prices.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      I remember paying around £120 for 512KB for my Amiga, and that was bare chips, which I had to plug into the A590 Sidecar unit.

      Or £49 for a 16KB RAM Pack for my ZX81, and I think the 32KB RAM pack for my VIC=20 was around the £50 - £60 mark.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Hahaha! I remember in 1980 my mum spending $225 to upgrade my TRS-80 from 4K to 16K!

      That was $225 for 12 *K* of RAM.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        TRS-80 RAM

        It was 2114 4-bit-by-1k ram. An extra 12k would be 24 of them. All of them off the component racks at the back of the store, individually blister-packed. Looks like you paid $18.75 each. Ouch.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "There's always something in this industry..." to raise prices.

    I'm waiting for the keyboard storage, the one where you have to buy tablets to have input.

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      Re: Sure

      The issue is that Intel's 10nm fab doesn't work. So they are still making CPUs on their 14nm fab when they should have already moved them to 10nm, but they have moved chipset manufacturing to be on the 14nm fab AND they have a contract with Apple to supply them with modems manufactured at 14nm. So there is lots of stuff that needs to be manufactured on 14nm and limited capacity to do so.

      Also to compete with AMD's 32 core server CPUs Intel have increased production of their 28 core CPUs. But unlike AMD's EPYC CPUs which contain 4 separate dies linked together, Intel's Xeons use a single large monolithic die which means they can only get a few CPUs out of a single wafer and there is a higher chance of a fatal defect occurring in the die.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sure

        Given that the shortage started right about the time they would have needed to ramp up production of modems for Apple, I think that's the culprit. Back when Intel and Apple made these plans - probably a couple of years ago - Intel believed they'd have 10nm up and running by now.

        Interesting that the shortage is supposed to last six months. Does that mean Intel will be getting additional capacity online, or that as iPhone sales have their usual cyclic drop in spring/summer they won't need as many modems? Assuming Apple uses Intel modems again next fall, this could again be an issue if Intel is still having problems making their 10nm process work. They claim they will have 10nm systems on shelves in time for the 2019 holidays, but that's pretty nonspecific. Having 1000 such systems would qualify, but wouldn't help any 14nm shortage.

        1. dnicholas

          Re: Sure

          I highly doubt Intel would be prioritising modems over their core business of server x86 and box shifters. No, they got caught with their pants down. It happens to big business sometimes

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sure

            They have to prioritize modems if they have a contract with Apple requiring delivery of a certain number of modems at a certain time. And there is a 100% chance there is such a contract, because there's no way Apple would agree to go exclusive with Intel modems if they had to bear the risk that Intel might decide "sorry we decided we'd rather make x86 CPUs than modems, guess you'll have to tell customers to wait months for delivery of their iPhones"

            Since Intel thought they'd have 10nm up and running when this contract would have been negotiated a couple years ago, they never imagined it would end up causing a shortage of x86 CPUs.

            Prima facie, there does not appear to be any shortage of iPhones (particular SKUs like Max 512GB might have order delays, but not all models) so obviously they are getting all the modems they need from Intel. The nearly 100 million modems Intel will have shipped to Apple by the end of the year is using up a LOT of 14nm fab capacity.

  3. WibbleMe

    So tomatoes are in short supply this year, because I say they are, now give me twice as much for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So tomatoes are in short supply this year, because I say they are, now give me twice as much for them."

      Broadly speaking - yes, that's how supply and demand works.

      In reality, as the price increases, demand decreases as some people make do with cucumber sandwiches because they were hungry rather than having tomato sandwiches because they preferred them.

      Continuing the broken fruit/vegetable metaphor, Intel is likely only providing it's most profitable tomatos, leaving the more budget conscious sandwich eater to try ARM or AMD cucumbers or to continue eating bread until something tastier is available at a more appropriate price.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Mister Rothbard, I presume?

    2. P0l0nium

      You should have bought "tomato futures" :-)

      Capitalism: It works !!

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Other vegetables / fruits are available, and if the price to tomatoes doubles, people will substitute.

  4. Big Al 23

    Intel in trouble

    As has been stated publicly by numerous sources over the past year, Intel is in trouble primarily because they can't deliver fully working 10Nm node. Add this to their full line of security compromised CPUs delivered over the past three decades and it's obvious why Intel is in trouble. Intel's intent is to leave the chip market and move to a service based Biz model but their transition is not going well.

    1. PerlyKing

      Re: fully working 10Nm node

      I think I see the problem here - they're trying to make chips in Newton-metres. Talk about a unit error!


      1. Commswonk

        Re: fully working 10Nm node

        I think I see the problem here - they're trying to make chips in Newton-metres.

        Ah yes; all torque, no action.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: fully working 10Nm node

          >>I think I see the problem here - they're trying to make chips in Newton-metres.


          >Ah yes; all torque, no action.

          Brilliant -->

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: fully working 10Nm node

            that really torques my gourd

    2. jabuzz

      Re: Intel in trouble

      We have a new cluster at work for just over six months and had two possibly three (I loose count) CPU failures now and this is Skylake Xeon Gold 6138's which is only 14nm stuff. These are genuine verified CPU errors, try pinning a program to run on one of the CPU's in the system (they are dual socket servers) and it exits with errors. Replace the CPU and it's fine. In my previous 25 years in IT support I have known have had exactly one CPU failure.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    6 months.. hah

    6 months of tight supply? Big deal. Motherboard manufacturers (and everyone else) is really feeling the tight supply in ceramic caps, especially MLCCs in big packages. Leadtimes are running out over 52 weeks with the supply chain telling us to brace for the tightness to last into 2020.

    Last time I saw anything like this was Tantalum caps back before the dot com bust. Not sure how this one will play out, but I'm betting that the tight supply will get tighter as everyone tries to secure the inventory they need (or think they need). That will get compounded by brokers looking to profit from a tight market. Mix in some sting from shady suppliers hawking counterfeit parts. Then at some point we'll get a cooling of the economy just as capacity comes back on line, and boom, glut of caps on the market.

    1. Fibbles

      Re: 6 months.. hah

      Mix in some sting from shady suppliers hawking counterfeit parts.

      Capacitor Plague 2: Electrolytic Boogaloo

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've bought Intel for a few years now for gaming, but sincerely looking forward to my next system being AMD on 7nm.

  7. IceC0ld

    If it's not one DRAM thing, it's another

    the tag line made me laugh, so ICON for that

    we had to 'upgrade' a bunch of dumb / thin clients to get them to 64MB each, there were around 150 units, the RAM was 'just' a pile of 32MB stickes to do a straight plug in, and due to the cost, the memory was delived by Securicor ..................................

    and anyone else recall THOSE days when the Battle of Britain game was released, and the comics went into meltdown, because it NEEDED 128MB of RAM to play it .................... WHO is going to spend THAT sort of money just to play a game, was one such strapline IIRC :o)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and to think that in 2015...

    People were wondering how AMD was going to escape the grips of bankruptcy. Even last year, folks were predicting that AMD would go bankrupt by 2020.

  9. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "If it's not one DRAM thing, it's another"

    Kudos on that chuckle fest. Well done Reg. Thumb up.

  10. dnicholas



  11. JohnFen

    That's OK

    I have sworn off buying Intel CPUs anyway.

  12. TReko

    Silicon bugs not fixed yet

    Odd that people aren't delaying chip upgrades until Intel includes a full Spectre/Meltdown fix.

    1. defiler

      Re: Silicon bugs not fixed yet

      That's because they need the capacity now.

      Look at it this way. Do you think that the Amazons, Googles, Facebooks of this world will sit back and say "Nah - the CPUs have a really funky little flaw. We simply can't expand operations until <undefined date> when that's fixed."

      Companies in particular need them now, or their competitors will take them and move ahead.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Price of AMD share

    With Nvidia delivering their new cards with only minimum gain at eye-watering prices, Intel in short supply, buried into their CPUs flaws, issues with 7nm lithography, if I was in buying shares I'd rush to invest in AMD.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Price of AMD share

      What you should have done was buy shares in AMD six months ago when it was a third of what it is now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Price of AMD share

      "With Nvidia delivering their new cards with only minimum gain at eye-watering prices"

      I suspect this is deliberate - the 12nm Nvidia products are largely targetted at AI/ML/HPC that benefit from the increases already while gaming GPU's will benefit more from the decrease in process node allowing higher clock speeds.

      "issues with 7nm lithography"

      Are there? Any references? Intel have issues with their 10nm process, but I believe 7nm processes for TSMC/Samsung are already providing working products for low power nodes (FF/FF+ for smaller CPU's) and TSMC will provide HPC node for larger items such as GPU's/larger CPU's by the end of 2018 with full production volumes available in Q1 2018.

      "if I was in buying shares I'd rush to invest in AMD"

      AMD benefit from Intels losses and anything that pushes up average prices, but they don't have their own 7nm fabs, so AMD may not benefit as much as you expect in the next 6 months. It will heavily depend on when Intel can release sub 14nm products.

  14. cmaurand

    I haven't bought an Intel CPU in over a decade. AMD has generally been a step ahead of Intel in terms of technology the entire time.

  15. EveryTime

    No mention of the impact of the Spectre bug. That must be a corporate communication strategy.

    Throwing out inventory and a bubble in production had to hurt much more than they are letting on.

  16. wahidovic

    Individuals were thinking about how amd would get away from the holds of liquidation. Indeed, even a year ago, people were anticipating that amd would go bankrupt by 2022

  17. Palladium

    Intel needs to be less sidetracked by chasing the process node leadership white elephant and be more focused on how to be a chip design leader. The signs are pointing the basic Skylake uarch since 2015 is still gonna hold the fort till 2020, and AMD getting a *mere* 10% IPC increase on Zen 2 is gonna torpedo Intel left, right and center even on a lesser but much cheaper process node.

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