USB 3.0 controllers: a victim of the Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake
Remember how we posted news about various hardware reportedly in short supply as a result of factories either shutting down or operating at less than optimal productivity? Well, the latest information we have seems to suggest that DRAMs are not the only products facing shortages: USB 3.0 controllers have also been affected as well.
With Intel's Light Peak (aka Thunderbolt) still in the early phase of its product life, it should come as little surprise that users who seek a high-speed data transfer interface for external device are turning back to the trusty USB 3.0 specification for their needs. After all, USB 3.0 still offers a huge performance increase over that of USB 2.0, and is well suited to handle most data transfer-related tasks until Light Peak eventually becomes mainstream.
Unfortunately, the latest developments in Japan might mean that users may have to start paying more for consumer electronic devices fitted with USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.0 controller cards or motherboards with USB 3.0 capabilities. This is because NEC is reporting that it is currently dealing with tight supplies of its first-generation USB 3.0 controllers, and that the shortage might result in a complete dry up of stock.
According to Chinese technology website Inpai.com.cn, NEC is claiming that the uPD720200 line of USB 3.0 controllers were already in short supply before the earthquake struck due to it being widely used in most modern motherboards, especially in boards marked with the B3 stepping. With the earthquake also affecting NEC's product lines, it is estimated that existing supplies for the uPD720200 USB 3.0 controller might only be able to last till May this year.
To address the problem, NEC has requested that motherboard manufacturers start adopting its second-generation USB 3.0 controllers, which are currently undergoing tests and are expected to be released for sale in a month's time. Fortunately, it would seem that NEC's third-generation controllers will not be affected due to the fact that they are only for volume production by September, which is approximately five months from now – and five months is (hopefully) sufficient enough for Japan to recover from the immediate effects of the earthquake.