The motherboard market is set to enter the twilight zone once more as CPU shortages and new releases change the parameters of the market.
`There is a lot of confusion and we have to predict what motherboard will take off in the market next,' said Phillip Tran, sales and marketing director of distributor Tech Excel.
Tran suggested that the relative stab-ility of the motherboard market over the last 18 months, inspired by the consistent BX chip set, is set to end.
`Intel is changing the shape of its CPU because it sees AMD and Citrix as a threat, due to their ability to manufacture cheaper CPUs. So it has released a socket motherboard for its Celeron and will phase out slot motherboards,' explained Tran of a process that has been occurring over the last year.
And according to Janto Lim, product manager at distributor Westan, this move has created a huge shortage of slot 1 motherboards, as manufacturers have not been able to keep up with the rapid changes.
`It will be at least another month until the manufacturers catch up and prices will rise pretty significantly. Intel just didn't give us enough time to change.'
Yet it will not just be price that should concern the channel and their customers. It is the confusion surrounding what motherboard supports what CPU.
`At the moment we have 28 models of PIIIs so motherboards need to support a lot of CPUs,' said Lim.
Shortages of CPUs will further confuse the situation as the channel tries to match available motherboards to available processors. `If I order 1000 CPUs from Intel I'll only get 20,' said Lim.
Tran gives slot motherboards a further three to six months. `By March there will be a huge shortage of PIII 500MHz slot 1 motherboards,' he claimed. `We'll also need to support new platforms because the old CPUs go into great shortage.'
However, the distributor is left in the unenviable position of having to order new product.
`Businesses want a standard operating system but we have to constantly change stock because the manufacturer's motherboards no longer support new CPUs,' explained Tran.
At present Tech Excel is in the process of selecting three motherboards out of a potential eight.
`A motherboard's success depends on its acceptance of certain CPUs, its price point and artificial incentives like Intel changing prices on its slot motherboards to encourage the take up of its socket version. Marketing is also a big factor, with AMD starting to gain a lot of ground,' said Tran.