High demand for the 478-pin Pentium 4 processors -- the CPU designed for use with SDRAM rather than the more expensive Rambus memory -- has made sourcing product a headache for distributors not lucky enough to be on Intel's official distribution list.
The good news is that the constraint on supply should ease within three weeks.
"We are experiencing supply constraints in 1.4 and 1.5GHz Pentium 4 processors with 478-pins, but not in processors of 1.6GHz on," said Intel's area sales manager of distribution, Philip Cronin.
"With our breakaway strategy we have brought our pricing down dramatically. With any price change it is always a balancing act. As we transition through various speeds there is usually some sort of constraint."
A spokesperson for Ingram Micro, one of Intel's three official distributors, said the company was still stocked with Pentium 4 processors and was expecting more to arrive next week. But the situation has made life increasingly difficult for distributors that supply chips to their customers as a value-added service.
"CPUs are service products for us, so it is not something we live or die by," said BBF managing director Mike Muscat. "But in times of shortage, the distributors tend to bundle the processors with other products and that really concerns us.
"It seems to happen at the same time each year," he added.
Cronin said Intel does not anticipate constraints on the supply of 1.6, 1.7 and 1.8GHz processors through December.
"The speed at which the Pentium 4 [with SDRAM] has been a success has taken us by surprise. There are constraints on certain products, but I am extremely confident about supply through the December period," he said.
"We work with the official distributors and they in turn have to work with their channel customers so that the supply is as equitable as possible."