It was announced by Intel today that minor design flaws in the chipset used in its latest version of its processor family have forced the company to make some changes to the manufacturing of the chips. As a result, some companies which would have utilized the new Sandy Bridge chipsets incorporating the flawed Cougar Point support chip may experience some delays in getting adequate stock levels as the first generation of chips had to be replaced with those where the flaw has been rectified with a silicon fix. This news may affect Apple users and those waiting for an iMac and MacBook Pro refresh as the highly anticipated Sandy Bridge chipsets are expected to be used in the next generation of those devices.
If the flaw had remained unfixed, it could have apparently resulted in degradation of the SATA ports used in these chipsets, eventually causing problems with SATA linked devices such as hard drives. However, the fix implemented by Intel will reportedly deal with these problems. While Apple has neither announced it will be updating the iMac and MacBook lines nor has it announced if Sandy Bridge will be part of that update, rumors have been circulating that the iMac and MacBook Pro will soon receive updates given the length of time that has elapsed between the last updates.
The Intel Sandy Bridge technology is the latest chipset family to be released by Intel and debuted at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show with 29 different CPU models that were faster and used less power than their predecessors. While Sandy Bridge would be a very welcome addition to the Apple linue-up, it has been reported that the chipsets would not support USB 3.0 and therefore, if Apple did indeed utilize them in their next generation of iMacs and MacBooks, there would be no chance of compatibility with USB 3.0.
Given that Apple has not yet officially announced any changes to the MacBook Pro / iMac lines, it is likely that they would simply push the announcement back by a month or so in order to move towards the implementation of the fixed chipsets.
According to the WSJ, the cost to Intel to repair and replace the dodgy chips will be around $700 million. Whew.