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Computer Industry Faltering by Dr. John
 There are so many problems occurring in the computer industry now, it's almost impossible to keep track of them all.  The news that rocked the computer industry yesterday, even more than the tragic earthquake in Taiwan earlier this week, was the announcement that the Intel Camino chipset was flawed, and would be further delayed, indefinitely.  Intel's entire strategy for moving PC hardware into the next millennium is in doubt, and the industry's multi-billion dollar investment in new infrastructure to manufacture Direct Rambus DRAM is a potential loss. (Double Data Rate DRAM is sounding mighty good right about now).

  The problem centers around system instability that is most apparent when all three Rambus "RIMM" sockets are occupied. You can read about it Here. The makers of Rambus DRAM said the problem is not with the memory design, but rather with the chipset, BIOS or motherboard designs.  Quick workarounds like capping off one out of three RIMM sockets, or making motherboards with only two RIMM sockets (this is Intel's new, flagship product?) are unacceptable.

  AMD and McIntosh are not in a position to capitalize on Intel's stumbling, because they could not keep up with demand even before the earthquake that halted much of the worlds chip and motherboard production.  Expect prices to rise for all three types of computer (Pentium III, Athalon and G4). The question becomes, how will the likely AMD/Motorola deal fit into the equation. Neither has the capacity to meet demand for Athalon and G4 systems at their fabrication facilities. It's too bad. The i820 delay could have been a great chance for both of these competing, and superior, computer designs to gain market share from Intel.

  The earthquake halted production on a significant percentage of existing fabrication capacity, for a number of critical computer components, ranging from graphics chipsets to the circuit boards in CD, DVD and hard drives.  While supplies on video cards and drives are good now, they may become scarce over the next month or two.

  Memory availability and prices had started to climb rapidly before the earthquake in Taiwan.  Now prices are rising even faster.  This problem will almost certainly get worse before memory prices start to stabilize, and eventually fall again.

   Other technical problems are plaguing the industry. 3dfx announced a delay in the Voodoo4 chipset, and Intel's 550MHz Xeon processor was found to have a bug that crashes 8-way servers, leading Intel to stop shipments.

  And of course there is merger-mania going on in the computer industry, making it look like some kind of strange, massive game of musical chairs, with every company worried they will be the only one left alone when the music stops.  Diamond Multimedia merged with S3, 3dfx merged with STB, Hyundai Electronics merged with LG Semiconductor, and the list goes on.

  The law of supply and demand is at work here.  As consumers, our only method of influencing the industry is with our spending habits.  If customers want to scoff at high memory prices, and are tired of the delays in new technology, or the shortages of G4 and Athalon systems, then exercise your vote in the marketplace.  DON'T buy them!  Wait until prices stabilize and fall again.  This may not be until January of 2000, but you'll be very glad you were patient, and didn't throw your money away before the holidays.

                     Dr. John