Valve further delays Steam Deck dock due to supply shortages

You’ll have to be patient if you want an official way to turn your Steam Deck into a makeshift desktop. As The Verge notes, Valve has indefinitely delayed its Steam Deck Docking Station due to a combination of supply shortages and pandemic-related manufacturing shutdowns. The company said it was “improving the situation” and would share more info when available.

The setback won’t affect production and reservation windows for the Steam Deck itself, Valve said. In the interim, the company vowed to upgrade support for third-party USB-C hubs and external monitors.

The Docking Station cradles the Steam Deck while providing display, Ethernet and USB connections. It was announced alongside the handheld system, but wasn’t available when the Steam Deck first reached customers. Valve still lists the release as “late spring.” The delay won’t preclude you from using the Steam Deck as a PC or attaching it to a TV, but generic hubs clearly won’t be as elegant as a dock built with the console in mind.

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Sony reportedly cuts PS5 production again as chip shortages and shipment issues bite

Sony’s PlayStation 5 may not be able to beat the PS4’s first year sales record due to an ongoing component shortage, according to Bloomberg. The company has reportedly cut its previous production forecast of 16 million down to 15 million, putting its target of 14.8 million PS5 sales by March in jeopardy, if the report is accurate. It also makes a bad situation worse in terms of consumers being able to pick up a PS5 over the holidays. 

Sony is supposedly having trouble with not just parts supply but shipping logistics as well, according to Bloomberg‘s sources. The problems are due in part to uneven vaccine rollouts in nations where Sony builds chips, and shortages of essential parts like power chips.

The situation has affected other console makers like Nintendo and even affected the launch of an entirely new console, Valve’s Steam Deck — pushing the date back until some time in 2022. It’s got to the point that publishers are reportedly saying that sales are gradually shifting over to PC versions of games due to a lack of consoles.

March is still a long ways off, so Sony might still be able to pull off the sales record goal. But it’s rather ominous that this report is arriving just ahead of Christmas, so if you’re looking for a PS5 as a gift and see an opportunity to get one, better snap it up quick. 

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Tech News

Devastating chip shortages could hit smartphones soon, too

For the past several months, carmakers have been struggling with a chip shortage due to pandemic-related demand for consumer electronics. Now a new report suggests that shortage could hit smartphones, too.

According to Reuters’ sources at Samsung and other phone makers, the chip shortage affecting the industry has reached all levels of smartphone processors, including Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 flagship that powers Samsung’s Galaxy S21 and other high-end phones. The report notes that the shortfall has mainly affected mid- and low-end phones, but smartphone makers are “facing a shortage of a range of components from Qualcomm and would cut handset shipments this year.”

Qualcomm makes processors and components for nearly every phone sold today, including the 5G modem and other parts for Apple’s iPhone. It’s unclear whether the shortage extends to other components or affects only smartphone CPUs.

The main culprit involves power-management chips that all modern processors use. Reuters reports that Qualcomm has re-directed the supply of power management chips toward the Snapdragon 888 to maximize profits, which is constraining supply for lower-end processors.

CPU and GPU prices have been soaring during the pandemic due to demand and Ethereum mining. Launches have been marred by unavailable stock and scalping. That hasn’t happened on the smartphone front yet, but Reuters notes that component prices are slowly ticking up. For example, the report points to a “commonly-used microcontroller-unit chip from STMicroelectronics” that is selling for $14, seven times its usual $2 price. Over the course of millions of phones, those soaring prices could have an effect on prices and availability.

Shortage or no, phone makers aren’t slowing down their releases. OnePlus has scheduled the launch of its next flagship on March 23, likely followed by the Google Pixel 5a in May. Samsung is also launching a series of mid-range phones on March 17 as part of its Galaxy Awesome Unpacked event.

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Sony Expects PS5 Shortages Will Last Into 2022

Sony expects to struggle to meet the demands for PS5 into 2022, according to a new report from Bloomberg. This news comes by way of Sony chief financial officer Hiroki Totoki, who warned investors that PS5 shortages will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t think demand is calming down this year and even if we secure a lot more devices and produce many more units of the PS5 next year, our supply wouldn’t be able to catch up with demand,” Totoki said, according to Bloomberg.

As of March 31, Sony reported selling 7.8 million PS5 systems, which is slightly more than the PS4 sold within its first five months on the market. Though, the PS4 itself has continued to perform well, reaching 115.9 million units sold as of the end of March.

“We have sold more than 100 million units of the PlayStation 4 and considering our market share and reputation, I can’t imagine demand dropping easily,” Totoki said to investors. Sony said it needs to continue to ramp up PS5 production if it wants to stay on track with (or surpass) the PS4’s sales figures.

The main reason Sony has struggled to meet PS5 demands has to do with a shortage of parts such as semiconductors. Semiconductor shortages have also impacted production of Nintendo Switch systems, which have been difficult to find for the better part of a year and are also expected to be scarce for the foreseeable future.

Both Sony and Nintendo are rumored to have hardware revisions planned for PS5 and Switch, respectively, though neither company has confirmed what these upgrades will entail.

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Intel CEO Swan says chip shortages will never happen again on his watch

Newly-confirmed Intel chief executive Bob Swan made a bold claim on Thursday afternoon: that the company’s manufacturing would never again be a constraint on customer growth, following several quarters in which it did just that.

Put another way, Intel said that it was investing again in more 14nm capacity, even as it planned to offer a higher volume of next-gen 10nm products during the 2019 holiday season than it had originally planned.

Both statements came as Intel reported a tumultuous second quarter. The PC-centric Client Computing Group—which has historically struggled, and which Intel was gradually deemphasizing—reported positive revenue and operating income growth, while the historically more successful Data Center Group saw revenue and operating income decline. That, as Intel reported flat revenue of $16.1 billion and an 11-percent drop in profit to $4.0 billion YOY, and lowered full-year revenue forecasts because of a “more cautious” view of the year. Whew!

intel q1 2019 earnings ccg results Intel

A summary of how Intel’s Client Computing Group fared during the first quarter 2019.

Swan, who was named permanent CEO in January, has already overseen the company’s withdrawal from the 5G smartphone modem market. Swan referred to Intel’s divestiture of McAfee and its sale of Wind River as indicators that Intel plans to get back to basics. Swan described the company’s decision on what to do with the 5G technology it developed as a “work in progress.”

“By doing fewer things, we’ll execute better at the things that matter most,” Swan said. 

What this means to you: Intel, as the old curse goes, is living in interesting times. Some Wall Street analysts seemed irritated that Intel’s steady streak of successful quarters had stalled. Poor Swan was even mistakenly referred to as an interim CEO by his own investor-relations chief during introductions. Intel’s 5G plans appear to have flopped, again, and who knows how quickly Intel will be able to ramp 14nm capacity.

One bright spot: Microsoft’s own earnings call signaled that Intel’s manufacturing was back on track, now and in the quarters to come. Or will Swan’s bold statements come back to haunt him?

PC processor plans on track

Intel has been fairly forthcoming with its plans for the PC market, and little appears to have changed. Intel still plans to qualify its first 10nm chip, Ice Lake, with customers during the second quarter, with PCs using it on store shelves by the holidays. What’s changed is that Intel’s confidence in its 10nm production is improving, and it plans to ship more units during the fourth quarter than previously indicated, Swan said.

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