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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Computer Industry Split Over Controversial Chip

NEW YORK -- Microsoft Corp. and other players in the personal computer industry have rushed to support Intel Corp. and its flawed Pentium chip, leaving IBM isolated in its decision to pull its Pentium-based PCs off the market.


Microsoft, the biggest software company in the world, said Tuesday it believes customers can continue to use Pentium-based PCs with confidence and believes the impact of the flaw is limited. It said it is still buying new Pentium systems for its own use.


The current top seller of the high-speed Pentium computers, Gateway 2000 Inc., also said its sales are going full steam ahead, despite the flaw in the chip and IBM's decision to pull the machines from the market.


"We've sold more Pentium-based PCs than any company in the U.S. market, and before this story broke in the news, we had not received one call from a customer complaining of any errors related to a flaw in the floating point unit," said Ted Waitt, chairman and chief executive of Gateway 2000.


"If this had been a problem with real world applications, we would have heard from our customers immediately because we're in constant contact with them," he said.


International Business Machines Corp. said Monday it was halting shipments of Pentium-based PCs because it found a flaw in the chip could lead to errors in routine calculations.


IBM said common spreadsheet programs, recalculating for 15 minutes a day, could produce Pentium-related errors as often as once every 24 days. Intel said the error was far less frequent and could occur once in 9 billion calculations, or once every 27,000 years.


The flawed chip has split the industry, with makers dependent on Intel chips and Microsoft Windows software -- the dominant software for PCs -- siding with Intel.


IBM, while a big seller of Intel chip-based computers, has developed a Power PC chip that one day will be a competing standard to the Intel/Microsoft alliance.


Although analysts said this factor might be behind IBM's move, IBM said it was motivated only by concern for its customers.


Gateway was the latest voice in what has become an open industry dispute over how bad the flaw is in the Pentium, Intel's most advanced PC chip.


Packard Bell Corp. said it would continue to ship Pentium-based computers and added that sales so far exceeded expectations. It too said it had virtually no complaints from retailers or calls from customers having problems with the machines.


Gateway and Packard Bell joined Dell Computer Corp. -- another big Pentium seller -- in siding with Intel and saying the problem was not as bad as IBM suggested. Gateway and Packard Bell said Tuesday they had seen no sales impact from the IBM announcement.


Dell Computer said it was difficult to calculate any impact from the IBM statement, but a spokesman said Dell was pleased with current sales momentum.


Makers of spreadsheet software, used in finance and other math calculations, said users could bypass the flaw by making a slight modification in their software.