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updated 7/30/2004 11:32:02 AM ET 2004-07-30T15:32:02

Intel has delayed the launch of a new high-performance microprocessor until the first quarter of 2005, the latest in design and manufacturing problems to hit the world's largest semiconductor company. 

Intel had previously told computer manufacturers that its new 4-gigahertz Pentium processor would be launched before the end of this year. 

The delay will raise further questions about Intel's ability to maintain the pace of product innovation that has fuelled its growth. 

Craig Barrett, chairman and chief executive, last week informed the company's 80,000 employees in a letter that he had told senior managers "bluntly and directly" to improve their performance. 

The chipmaker earlier this year was forced to delay the launch of a new line of notebook computer processors for several months after discovering a flaw in the chips. 

More recently, it recalled a new chipset for desktop computers after finding a flaw that could cause computers to malfunction. That mistake cost the company $38m in the latest quarter. 

Intel said the new 4-gigahertz Pentium - its most powerful processor for desktop PCs - was being delayed to "better meet customer expectations for quality, reliability and volume." 

It declined to elaborate.

AMD increases pressure
Intel dominates the market for PC microprocessors with its Pentium and Celeron products. However, Advanced Micro Devices has increased pressure on its larger rival in recent months with the success of its Athlon XP and Athlon 64 processors. 

AMD earlier this week launched a new range of processors, branded Sempron, to challenge Intel in the market for 'budget' PCs costing less than $600. 

Some analysts believe that design and manufacturing problems could become more frequent across the industry as semiconductor companies push the boundaries of current technology. 

"You could see more of these problems just because of how difficult these process technologies are to bring into production," said Trevor Yancy, at research group IC Insights.

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013. "FT" and "Financial Times" are trademarks of the Financial Times.

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