Is Intel Involved?
So what is the real reason why there were only a handful of motherboard makers at the platform launch-event in Taipei last week? Well, as you might have guessed already, there's a very strong rumor that the one company that hates and detests AMD's Athlon really badly is throwing its whole weight in to threaten the entire Taiwanese motherboard industry. We heard rumors of an artificial 'BX-chipset shortage' and other unpleasant threats that put a motherboard maker into a tough position. No motherboard manufacturer is particularly keen on making Intel upset. In the past such behavior resulted in lagging shipments of Intel-chipsets, chipset- shipments of only small quantity or in the worst case even in a complete cancellation of the 'cooperation' between Intel and the motherboard maker. This is a serious thing, because so far the vast majority of systems used Intel-processors and Intel chipsets. The motto used to be "stick with Intel, and you'll make money", and thus all motherboard makers stuck to it nicely.
The current situation doesn't make things easier. Athlon may be a great product, but will it ship in quantity? If it should, Intel could be left sitting on its chipset until kingdom come, but who can assure that? If Athlon should not ship in decent amounts, the majority of users will have to stick to Intel-systems and thus the big money is still made with Intel-systems, including motherboards with Intel chipsets. So the motherboard makers don't know. Shall they take the risk and upset Intel, or should they turn their backs on AMD to score some points with Intel?
The Sad Situation
Let's pick three examples, Abit, Asus and FIC. Abit already announced that they won't do Athlon-motherboards. Does that surprise anyone? Abit never made any Super7-boards as well. It doesn't seem too unlikely that Abit wants to stay on good terms with Intel. Asus is the next and saddest example. I know for a fact that Asus has designed a highly excellent Athlon-motherboard. However, who expected Asus at the launch-event in Taiwan last week waited in vain. Asus is chicken, they could easily supply Athlon-boards, but they are afraid of Intel's reaction. Well, well. Example number three is FIC. FIC has got a relationship with Intel too, they are actually a significantly big customer for Intel chipsets. However, FIC belongs just as VIA to the Formosa Plastic empire, and thus FIC used to be one of the first to supply motherboards with VIA and thus non-Intel chipsets. FIC doesn't have the slightest problem with launching their Athlon-motherboard. They weren't afraid of Intel in the past and they're not afraid of them now as well. That's the spirit, dear readers! Asus is one of the very best motherboard makers in the world, but being afraid of Intel doesn't score them any points with me.