Intel is unable to keep up with the demand for its latest processor, the heavily advertised MMX chip.
The shortfall in supplies is depressing sales of many higher specification machines while at the same time creating deep discounts on sales of lower range machines.
Larry Smith, UK manager of the IBM consumer division, says: “There are not enough supplies of MMX to go round. Customers are coming into stores and asking for computers with MMX inside. That means computers without this technology in them are being discounted in order to shift them.”
A spokesman for research body International Data Group says that the shortfall in supplies ran into millions for manufacturers.
A senior European marketing manager at Apple Computer says: “The marketing for MMX has been highly effective. Basically what the customer is saying is if I am going to pay that much for a computer I want to make sure it has MMX.”
Mike Robinson, European media manager for Gateway 2000, which is one of several manufacturers that has a preferred supplier relationship with Intel, says: “We have not had any of these problems but I have heard that other suppliers have.”
Observers say there are two possible reasons for the supply problem: either the company, which makes about 80 per cent of the world’s computer chips, has simply underestimated the demand, or else it wants to maintain the chip’s premium status.
A spokeswoman for Intel says: “Manufacturers are always coming to us and saying that they can’t get enough supplies. All our original orders were fulfilled. However, sometimes there is a short-term lapse in supplies.”