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Motherboard makers waiting on Nvidia

Delays have hit a highly anticipated version of Nvidia's nForce2 graphics chipset, according to several PC motherboard makers--who fear they'll miss the holiday sales rush.

Leading graphics chipmaker Nvidia is experiencing delays with some versions of the nForce2 chipset, according to several PC motherboard manufacturers.

The nForce2 chipset, which controls the flow of data between Advanced Micro Device's Athlon processor and other system components, such as the memory, graphics engine, hard disk and other peripherals, was unveiled in July. It comes in two versions, and it appears to be the more highly anticipated version that is suffering from delays.

Motherboard manufacturers say they had been told that both versions of the chipset would arrive at the same time. The two versions are the Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP), which includes a built-in graphics processor, and the System Platform Processor (SPP), which performs only chipset functions. SPP versions are appearing in stores now, but there is still no sign of the IGP versions, say manufacturers.

Aside from the integrated GeForce graphics processing, advances in nForce2 include support for a number of new connection technologies including USB 2.0, the IEEE 1394a version of FireWire and HyperTransport, an Advanced Micro Devices-initiated effort to create a new type of high-speed connection between chips.

"Unfortunately, Nvidia has delayed the nForce2 schedule again, which will make it tough for us to deliver this year," said one motherboard maker. "We're expecting production in mid-December, which will miss the Christmas rush."

An Nvidia representative said the nForce2 has been readily available to motherboard makers for several weeks. "We've been shipping parts to all of our major motherboards partners for the last month and a half, and we haven't heard any complaints," the representative said.

Another major manufacturer, who asked not to be identified for fear of damaging its relationship with Nvidia, said that SPP versions of its nForce2-based motherboard are shipping now and should be available in quantity next week, but it is still waiting for chipsets with integrated graphics.

"We have heard reports that boards with (integrated) graphics are unworkable," said the spokeswoman. "If the motherboard is unstable, you need more time for the engineers to debug it. We have had no update from Nvidia; we have no new schedule."

The nForce2 chipset is not the only product causing problems for Nvidia. The company has experienced significant delays with the NV30 graphics processor, which is due to appear at the Comdex trade show next week. Analysts expect Nvidia to have only a handful of chips on the market by Christmas, with no volume shipments until early next year.