Recently, Dell Computer stopped taking orders for Dimension 8200 desktop PCs and other systems that include the 2GHz Intel processor, and this past weekend it pulled the chip from its Web site "configurator," through which consumers can pick and choose the features they want for a given system.
A Dell spokesman, citing strong demand, said the company sold out of 2GHz Pentium 4 chips, but he stopped short of calling the lack of availability a shortage.
"Demand for that product was really strong, so we sold out," said spokesman Tom Kehoe. "As soon as supply is up to snuff, we'll start selling it again."
Customers with 2GHz PCs on order report that Dell sales representatives have contacted them to offer the 1.9GHz Pentium 4 in place of the elusive 2GHz.
Dell pulled the 2GHz from its Dimension site because "we were worried about lead times," Kehoe said. "We didn't want to create expectations that we couldn't deliver the best customer experience."
A customer advisory posted on company's support Web site on Tuesday showed the lead time for a Dimension 8200 fitted with the 2GHz Pentium 4 to be 40 business days. Dimension 8200 PCs with the 1.7GHz, 1.8GHz or 1.9GHz versions of the chip showed lead times of six business days, and other Dimension products showed a range from three to nine days.
Dell also offers the 2GHz chip in its Optiplex GX240 and GX400 desktops. Lead times for those machines were 40 days and five days, respectively, according to an advisory posted on the support site.
Meanwhile, other PC makers continue to offer the 2GHz Pentium 4 via their Web sites. Compaq Computer, for one, was still offering the chip as of Tuesday, a company representative confirmed.
Gateway also said it had the chip in stock. "We're offering it. We're selling it. We have plenty of supply," Gateway representative Beth Etler said.
Dell faced a similar situation almost exactly two years ago, when Intel ran into shortages of the Pentium III chip, which at the time was at the high end of the company's line. Lead times for PCs with the then-new 700MHz and 733MHz Pentium III chips stretched to several weeks before the supply situation was ironed out. Intel's 1GHz Pentium III was also in short supply after its introduction in March 2000.
Intel representatives said Tuesday that the chipmaker continues to ship Pentium 4 chips at 2GHz and all other speeds but acknowledged supply constraint on some Pentium 4 clock-speed grades.
"As we said in the (third-quarter) earnings call, certain (versions) of Pentium 4 will see tightness in the early part of the quarter. But we anticipate meeting demand by the end of the quarter," said spokesman George Alfs.
Intel's Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, used the Oct. 16 earnings call to downplay reports of Pentium 4 and 845 chipset shortages.
"We are planning to ship three times the volume of 845 in (the fourth quarter) and double our P4 production to meet all demand," he said during the call.
Staff writer John G. Spooner reported from Cambridge, Mass., and News.com's Michael Kanellos reported from Las Vegas.