The low-cost Atom processor is primarily used in low-cost laptops, called netbooks. The popularity of these devices initially exceeded Intel's expectations, resulting in a shortage of the chips for hardware makers eager to cash in on high netbook demand. In a bid to catch up with demand, Intel repeatedly increased its Atom output this year.
Acer, the world's third largest PC maker and a major netbook vendor, says it's no longer having any problem obtaining Atom microprocessors. The company estimates it will ship 6 million Aspire One netbooks this year, a heady target considering it started shipping the devices at the end of June.
As recently as August, the company was still struggling to produce enough Atom chips. In a conference call, Intel CFO Stacy Smith pinned the shortage on a lack of adequate testing capacity to meet demand for the chips.
Some netbook makers blamed the shortage for disrupting netbook shipments. Asustek Computer, which created the netbook market with its Eee PC, even turned to using an older Intel chip, the Celeron M 353, because of the Atom shortage.
By October signs emerged that the Atom shortage had eased. One of the first confirmations came from Jeff Clarke, senior vice president of Dell's Business Product Group, who said plenty of Atom chips are available for its recently announced Optiplex FX160 thin-client computer. "I won't have a supply issue," he said.