You don’t make it to a billion-dollar blunder without making a few mistakes along the way, or so should be the motto of the day for Intel. The world’s largest chip maker has distributed roughly 8 million faulty Cougar Point chips, and the cost to fix this mess: one billion dollars.
The problem is that the Cougar Point SATA chips (the ones that transfer information back and forth to your hard drives) are faulty — more specifically the 3Gbps controllers are experiencing the issues. There is a slight chance that they could fail, and that is what all the fuss is about. However, it isn’t as bad as it might seem. Anandtech explains in detail:
If you have a desktop system with six SATA ports driven off of P67/H67 chipset, there’s a chance (at least 5%) that during normal use some of the 3Gbps ports will stop working over the course of 3 years. The longer you use the ports, the higher that percentage will be. If you fall into this category, chances are your motherboard manufacturer will set up some sort of an exchange where you get a fixed board. The motherboard manufacturer could simply desolder your 6-series chipset and replace it with a newer stepping if it wanted to be frugal.
If you have a notebook system with only two SATA ports however, the scenario is a little less clear. Notebooks don’t have tons of storage bays and thus they don’t always use all of the ports a chipset offers. If a notebook design only uses ports 0 & 1 off the chipset (the unaffected ports), then the end user would never encounter an issue and the notebook may not even be recalled. In fact, if there are notebook designs currently in the pipeline that only use ports 0 & 1 they may not be delayed by today’s announcement. This is the only source of hope if you’re looking for an unaffected release schedule for your dual-core SNB notebook.
Venture Beat’s interview with Intel’s vice president points out that it could have been worse:
Stephen Smith, an Intel vice president, said in an interview that about 8 million of the flawed chips have already been shipped to PC manufacturer customers and perhaps only 500,000 are in the hands of users. That’s actually less than a day’s worth of PC shipments, in the grand scheme of things.
All things considered, this could have been a financial and public relations nightmare. If it costs Intel only a billion dollars worth of dough to fix it, it is only a tiny slap on the wrist. Close call, Intel.