On May 30, microprocessor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) announced its Core X series of high-end desktop personal computer processors. The first of the Skylake-X-based Core X chips -- the hex-core Core i7-7800X, the octa-core Core i7-7820X, and the deca-core Core i9 7900X -- became available for purchase in late June, with the remaining 12-, 14-, 16-, and 18-core chips slated to roll out over the next several months.
Early on, I noticed that the currently available parts were sold out on the major online retailers.
At the time, I said the following: "If in a month or so Core X shortages continue, I think that'd be something worth digging deeper into, since missing out on potential sales over a prolonged period is clearly not good, even if it implies healthy demand."
It's been over a month since I wrote that article, and the shortages appear to be continuing.
Let's take a closer look at the situation.
Processors unavailable, systems available
On Newegg.com, a major online vendor of computer parts, none of the three Skylake-X chips is available for purchase directly from the site at the manufacturer's standard retail price (MSRP). There are, however, some third-party sellers that will happily sell you a 7800X (MSRP of $389) for $618, a 7820X (MSRP $599) for $640, and a 7900X (MSRP $999) for $1,299.
The story is similar on Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN): The Core i7 7800X can be had for $479 from a third-party seller, while the 7820X and 7900X can be bought directly from Amazon for $678.75 and $1.062, respectively -- though Amazon says that both usually take two to four weeks to ship.
Clearly, supplies of the boxed processors aren't enough to meet demand. However, Newegg.com appears to have many complete computers available with these Core X chips inside. What that suggests to me, then, is that Intel can supply system builders with the Core X chips that they need to meet their own demand levels, but that Intel doesn't have enough chips left over to fully serve the do-it-yourself computer builders who want these chips as well.
Most personal computers are sold as pre-built systems from system vendors, so it's sensible that Intel is trying to serve those customers first if it must pick between one or the other.
Still, Intel needs to crank out more
I suspect that the factors I brought up in the past -- in particular, the relative difficulty of manufacturing the Core X chips, the fact that the company pulled in the Core X launch to begin with, and Intel's need to meet the needs of its data-center customers -- are still at play here.
Nevertheless, there is clearly demand for Intel's Core X processors, and given that these chips sell for vastly more than what the company sells a typical personal computer processor for, Intel needs to build and ship more of these chips to its distribution partners -- pronto!