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Intel delays Wi-Fi part for Centrino

The chipmaker won't have a Wi-Fi part for its Centrino bundle of chips until early in the fourth quarter, marking the second time it has postponed the part's arrival.

Intel said late Wednesday that it is revising the availability of a Wi-Fi part for its Centrino bundle of chips, marking the second time the chipmaker has delayed its arrival.

A representative from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company told CNET that the combination 802.11a/802.11b part will not arrive until early in the fourth quarter of 2003. The chipmaker initially estimated that the part would be available in the first half of the year. Then, at the company's spring analyst meeting in New York, the company said the part would not arrive until early in the third quarter.

Intel hasn't finished validating and testing the Wi-Fi part, according to company spokesman Dan Francisco.

"Testing and validating is typical of what we do for new parts, and we won't ship anything before its time," Francisco said.

The delay in the 802.11a/802.11b part gives rival chipmakers some breathing room, as many expect Intel's entry into the market to further erode already thin profit margins for all Wi-Fi parts, not just 802.11a/802.11b parts.

"Ultimately this shows (Intel) can do a great job with processors, but getting into a new market is proving to be very difficult for them," said Will Strauss, an analyst with Forward Concepts.

Strauss noted that Intel became the largest supplier of Ethernet chips by including them on their motherboards, and it appears they are using the same strategy by combining Wi-Fi chips with mobile processors.

Intel's Francisco said the part is likely weeks away from being ready to be included in Centrino products. Centrino products contain Intel's low-power Pentium-M processor, a chipset and a Wi-Fi chip.

The company's other Wi-Fi components remain on schedule. Intel expects production of its 802.11b/802.11g component to begin by the end of the year. The company plans to come out with an 802.11a/802.11b/802.11g part in the first half.