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Intel pushes back date for 4GHz Pentium 4

Intel has decided to push back the launch date for its 4GHz Pentium 4 desktop processor to the first quarter of 2005, after reviewing its launch schedules and determining it would not be able to introduce the product in sufficient volume, a company spokesman said Thursday.

President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Otellini first told financial analysts last year that Intel would raise the clock speed of the company's flagship Pentium 4 processor to 4GHz by the end of 2004. There are no manufacturing or design issues behind the delay, like the ones that have recently caused Intel to recall and delay some of its chipsets, said Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman.

"In light of the current environment, we are reviewing our product schedules top to bottom. To get to the volume we want to (with the 4GHz Pentium 4), we are telling (our customers) we're moving to a Q1 launch date," Kircos said.

Intel historically has been known for its design and manufacturing precision, but it has not lived up to that billing this year. Both of its initial 90-nanometer products, the Prescott desktop chip and the Dothan mobile chip, were delayed past their originally scheduled launch dates. The launch of the Grantsdale chipset, which Intel called one of its most important product launches in years, was marred by a manufacturing glitch that forced the recall of certain chipsets. And Sonoma, Intel's code name for the next generation of its Centrino mobile technology, has been delayed after Intel identified design problems in the chipset.

The company's recent performance prompted a memo from Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett to employees last week calling for changes in the way Intel rolls out its new products.

"This is not the Intel we all know and that is not acceptable," Barrett wrote.

Barrett clearly is not pleased with Intel's recent performance, and the company will probably grow more conservative with its future launch schedules, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64.

"I think it's a consequence of Craig Barrett having laid down the law to Intel last week that he didn't want any more broken schedules. When management says, 'Meeting your schedules is a priority,' then the natural outgrowth of that is people make more conservative schedules," Brookwood said.

"I think there must be some sort of amnesty program. If your schedule is in trouble, this is the time to admit rather than the month before it's due," Brookwood said. "You can finesse a lot of stuff, but if you said you were going to have 4GHz by the end for the year and you don't, somebody is going to pick up on it."

Brookwood said he didn't expect a sudden raft of revised schedules, but that it was not surprising that a high-profile product such as this would see a schedule change.